Diversity is the both the source of some of humanity’s greatest strengths and greatest frustrations. We’ve seen horrendous demonstrations of some people’s fight against diversity this last week in truly disappointing human fashion. Our differences are both what strengthen us and what scare us. They divide, and they bring us together. Each of us has a choice as to which of those branches we follow and they have vastly different outcomes within our teams.
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”
– Stephen R. Covey
The whole premise of having a team – be it at home, at work, or the greater world at large – is that our different ways of approaching things give us a competitive edge. Our greatest physical strength as a species is our genetic diversity which allows us to survive many diseases, circumstances and other threats that have wiped out less diverse species. Our greatest strength as a team is our diversity, and yet it is also the source of our greatest division.
Flipping the script on diversity means changing our mindset. It means taking fuel away from the ways that differences divide us, recognizing that it doesn’t benefit us as much as we think it does for everyone to be the same, and embracing the fact that diversity gives us options.
In any team, there will be differences in perspective and experience, and therefore in the way people go about things. Hell, as soon as you put two or more people together for any reason, this is the case. We can either eye each other with suspicion and disdain (how often are those the underlying factors when we talk to a team member or even a spouse and discover a difference in view point?), or we can get excited about the fact that our differences means each one of us is necessary!
If you and any one other person on the planet were identical, one of you would not be necessary. I’m grateful every day for the fact that I am not only necessary, but gifted with a uniqueness that adds flavor and insight to others as much as they add flavor and insight to my world. I’m grateful for the different ways that others see things as it helps me to challenge and expand my own perspective.
I’m grateful for the different ways other people say things, as they express things anew or with beauty I hadn’t considered – especially people whose first language is different to mine.
I’m grateful for the different ways that other people are passionate about what they do. That they are passionate about what they do means that their arena is covered and I can be passionate about what I do without limitation.
I’m grateful for the different priorities that people have that mean we create a powerful collective. This is no more significant than it is within a family. If everyone wanted to stay home with the kids, who would provide and create futures? If everyone wanted a career, who would stabilize the home base that nurtures and refuels?
I am grateful for the different generations that mesh together with their vastly different experiences of the world and their resulting value structures. I’m grateful for all the pieces of the puzzle that they bring that allow us to embrace both where we’ve come from and where we’re going.
I’m grateful for the different belief systems that cover the world because they somehow convince me that we’re all connected even when we don’t see it, and that the thread that runs through us is our ability to love one another. This is our most powerful thread and there are more of us connected by it than not.
“I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.”
– Ani DiFranco
This is the core premise that teams are built on. Any team. Your home team. Your work team. Our human team. Our differences are what give us strength – the key is to appreciate and not fear them. Our comfort comes from finding where we overlap. Our common practices and beliefs. More than anything else our common values and goals.
In order for any team to pull together, they must agree on two vital components. What are our common values and beliefs that govern who we will be to each other and how we will go about our journey; and what is our common goal – the destination we’d like to arrive at together. Once these common denominators are decided on, we go back to taking full advantage of our diversity and the different ways of thinking that make us powerful team members and that mean we each have something valuable to offer.
“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.”
– Malcolm Forbes
How will you celebrate diversity this week? How will you acknowledge the light in others as well as the light in yourself? How will you allow the diversity within your team to feed your strategy and enlighten your way forward? How will you celebrate the various generational viewpoints, discuss their offerings and honour each one? How will you invite the perspective of each person to light the ways you are not able to see as clearly? How will you protect each individual’s right to be everything they are made to be, safely and without prejudice? How will you cement and celebrate your team’s common beliefs and goals and encourage them towards them?
by Christen Killick
March 18th, 2019