“Our diversity is our strength. What a dull and pointless life it would be if everyone was the same.” ~ Angelina Jolie
I have been trialling a new tool with some of my coaching clients, and I wanted to share a couple of observations with you about the breathtaking beauty of diversity. And the extent to which even those we are most different from have far more in common with us than what distinguishes us.
The tool is derived from Simon Sinek, David Mead and Peter Docker’s new book Find Your Why. In it, they outline a process for helping people find their ‘why’ which sounds deceptively simple.
At its core, it involves asking your coachee to share a handful of ‘defining memories’ from their life. They tell you about them, and you illicit information about how those experiences made them feel, and why they stand out as defining moments. It can take a while, but eventually you should start to see some themes emerging that will lead them to their ‘why’ statement.
It’s a very personal process – different for everyone – and a great privilege to be a part of.
As a consequence of this very inspiring process, I have gained fresh insights to the topic of diversity that I know will be of value to you.
Diversity Isn’t Just about Race, Gender, Age and Sexual Orientation…
One of the clients I worked with was a lot like me: same gender, same ethnicity and not that different in age. The memories she shared were beautiful and poignant – and had some eerie similarities to memories I have from my own life. And yet, what I learned as we worked through the process was that although the similarities were many, the way we have both interpreted the world and made a place within it are very different.
I learned that diversity actually comes from the way in which our lifetimes’ experiences have come together into a unique and beautiful perspective, rather than something that can be confirmed via a check-box on a pre-employment form.
Understanding What Makes Someone Tick Enables Powerful Connections
“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” ~ Charles Eames
In some cases, I am working with people I’ve known for a while. After that kind of time passes, you start to think you know someone…
But I now realise I didn’t know them at all. But through this process, I have gained such powerful insights into some remarkable human beings that will stay with me forever.
My interpretation of this is that if it is someone you work with or know reasonably well, this process could enable a level of compassion and understanding that would create incredibly robust and productive relationships, built upon understanding rather than assuming. Feedback would have more resonance, assignments would be more aligned to passion and skill, and communication would be more effective.
Workplaces Could be Engaging, Fulfilling and Joyous Places
“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is a duty, life is slavery.” ~ Maxim Gorky
I’ve long known the benefits of a manager taking the time to get to know her employees: development pathways to dream-jobs can be plotted, feedback can be perfectly timed and targeted, and unproductive behaviours empathetically re-oriented.
But I’ve been deeply struck by how powerful it would be if managers worked through this process with their team members (and vice-versa).
Understanding what motivates and inspires someone else enables a ‘synching’ of approaches that can be incredibly effective. And the shared experience and compassion makes it less likely that an employee/employer relationship would break down due to misunderstanding and disengagement.
Often teams that have been through a shared trial (similar to those who go through military training) have a connection that is profoundly effective for team work. I think this process has the potential to accomplish the same thing – but without the trauma!
I’m Fond of My Brain… But Other People’s Brains Are Pretty Cool Too
I’ve always been rather fond of my brain. I’m not sure if everyone feels that way or not – and it probably doesn’t matter! But I have learnt that while all brains are different, none of them is better or worse than any other. And, for me, that lies at the heart of diversity.
It has also caused me to reflect on how terrible it would be if everyone had a brain the same as mine! I think that’s a useful insight too!
In the diversity of appraoches and world-views you can find complementarity and synchronicity and serendipity and creative conflict…
All things that wouldn’t exist if we were all ‘just the same’.
“Embrace a diversity of ideas. Embrace the fact that you can disagree with people and not be disagreeable. Embrace the fact that you can find common ground – if you disagree on nine out of 10 things, but can find common ground on that 10th, maybe you can make progress. If you can find common ground, you can accomplish great things.” ~ David Boies