By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager
Managing a diverse team successfully requires a willingness to listen and learn, and not being afraid to ask questions, says one firm managing partner.
“You've got to be open and want to just learn about people,” said Rob Whittall, CPA, managing partner at Dyke Yaxley in Cleveland. “And I think if you want to learn about people and learn about their background, you actually have to have a genuine interest.”
Whittall has a team of 14 people with a total of six different nationalities among them. He said the international experience of the staff is a huge benefit to the firm, as it provides business tax and advisory services to U.K. businesses looking to grow in the U.S., and vice versa. He joined The State of Business podcast this week to discuss his perspective on managing a diverse team.
Whittall acknowledged that because the firm serves U.K. and U.S. clients, it means people must already understand and be prepared to work with cultural differences.
“So, I think by default the people we got on board were already used to not having to work traditionally,” he said. “And it's a lot easier when you've already got people who accept new ideas.”
As the firm grows, Whittall said he wants to always be aware of the amount of diversity on staff, including in thought and business approaches.
“I'm a big believer that if we want our firm to grow and actually be a lot better than it is now, we actually need to hire people who we wouldn't normally hire,” he said.
This might mean hiring those who might make you uncomfortable because they don’t always agree with you; Whittall said that’s part of having a wide range of viewpoints on the team.
Whether you have a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds or not, it’s beneficial as a manager to continue to ask questions and have a genuine interest to try to understand your employees better, Whittall said. This is especially helpful if you receive an answer you weren’t expecting, and good to remember before you make assumptions.
“If you can every day learn something new, then we're all better for it,” Whittall said. “And it's just actually a lot of fun. And it's just great to learn more about people and understand how the world works a little bit more, especially in these unprecedented times.”