February 19, 2021

Leader Perspectives: Embracing Diversity and Cultivating Innovation

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Jeff Rhodes, Finance Leader, Thermo King Americas


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February is Black History Month in the United States, which offers all of us a great opportunity to reflect on diversity, and the value of celebrating our different backgrounds, beliefs and abilities. As the finance leader for Thermo King Americas, I’m proud to work at a company that was founded by a self-taught Black engineer, and I think it’s a testament to the kind of innovation that happens when we embrace our differences. 

The cultivation of diversity and inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a smart business decision. There is no shortage of research that supports the fact that diverse teams are more successful. As a leader, I’ve witnessed firsthand how having a variety of perspectives on my team leads to better results. In my experience, more diverse finance teams bring a more innovative approach to the tools, processes and analysis that we complete daily. And I look to foster this approach as much as possible – going beyond diversity and striving for inclusion.

Recently, our team came together to look at some of our processes and see where there were opportunities to optimize our work, from an efficiency and quality perspective. We built out the working groups for these sessions with diversity top of mind – placing members with different backgrounds on each team. During these sessions, team members came to the table with their own experiences, and we examined our own work with a more out-of-the-box approach. The sessions were highly productive and led to the development of new solutions and processes that bring simplicity, increased customer satisfaction, greater transparency and time savings to our work.

When it comes down to it diversity alone is not enough, we must also be inclusive and bring those differing backgrounds, experiences and beliefs into the discussion. When we understand and celebrate our differences – whether along the lines of race, gender, age, physical ability, sexual orientation or otherwise – we can build cooperative, caring teams that draw on individuals’ unique perspectives and strengths to produce more innovative solutions.

As a leader, I am constantly learning and evolving. I’m proud to be part of a team that appreciates our differences. I know we’re better for it!