Perspectives

Every study on Diversity/Inclusion proves that it is the smartest business decision you could make – there’s no getting around it.  To me, the obvious reason is Perspective

The most powerful human force on the planet is a team of dedicated people.  The more diverse the team, the more successful they will be.  Each obstacle they encounter is an opportunity to bring all the different perspectives into play and come up with the best possible idea to move forward.  Then, there’s the original design to consider.  If there are different perspectives at the table when an original design is presented, then the potential issues can be addressed immediately – always smart business.  It is MUCH less expensive to avoid a mishap than apologize for it afterwards – especially when the apology must be done publicly.  Proof is in the recent slew of fashion design screw ups that clearly did not have diversity at the table when the designs were created.  I mean honestly – a noose as a fashion design element?

But it’s not just about having lots of voices at the table – if the voices don’t feel they can speak up.  In offices across the country and in EVERY industry, women and men feel they cannot share their perspective.  If they appear to disagree or disprove their leader’s idea, then they fear for their job or their career.  If they speak up at their group’s table, they fear they will be criticized or worse, ignored.  There’s some magic about higher levels within a company that implies they are smarter than you – that they’ve ‘earned’ that big salary and big title and what could *you* provide?!?!?  The truth??  They are no better and no smarter than you.  They may have more knowledge (which is NOT about being smart) or more experience, but they don’t have YOUR perspective.  And maybe (in fact, most likely) – YOUR perspective is what they need the most.

I remember years ago, I worked for a very large organization.  The executives were struggling with low employee moral/low earnings (they go hand in hand) and decided to go on a Road Show to talk with the people on the front lines and learn more.  They came to our office.  Prior to the town hall, I was specifically pulled aside and told flat out to NOT SAY A WORD.  The leaders of my office were afraid of the truth, they were afraid of being targeted as the ‘problem’ office, and they certainly did not want to be held accountable for what was really going on.  I wasn’t going to be disrespectful and I wasn’t going to be mean or vengeful.  But I was denied an opportunity and more importantly, the executives were denied honesty.

What matters is Diversity with Inclusion with the culture that promotes speaking up.  Without each of those, each manager hires people who are just like them – typically the same gender, the same color, the same background.  We do that because it’s who we feel will hear us and understand us. What we really need though – is to be open, to be told when our idea isn’t the brightest or the best, and to listen more than we speak.

Did you see an old man and an old woman in the picture – or a young man and a young woman?

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When Things Become Unbearable

When you’re getting up in the morning to prepare for work and you’re really preparing for battle.  You hate it, you dread it, you can’t stand it, you want to quit but you can’t afford it…it all feels impossible.  You become inward, you talk less, you become paranoid, doubt is constant, you think it’s you, everyone else seems fine, no one wants me here, I’m doing the wrong job, these people think I’m weird, I don’t fit. Everything is worse and everything is bottled up.  There’s too much to do, not enough time, everyone is pulling at me.  I get it – I’ve been there more times than I realize.  One thing consistently got me INTO these places – I closed down and stopped talking to people about how I was feeling.  I believed the negativity that no one wanted to listen to me whine and no one wanted to hear my woes. 

One thing consistently got me OUT of those places – talking.  I think I heard someone call it ‘Talk Therapy’.  It’s up there with aromatherapy, shopping therapy, movie therapy, and our favorite sugar therapy.  EVERYONE needs a chance to vent, whine, complain… get it off our chests.   Think of it as an onion – the outer layers are the annoyances, the moles we grow into mountains.  If you can get those out of the way, they reveal the bigger issues that are the real issues. Maybe we don’t feel valued, maybe we are in the wrong position, maybe the office is too toxic – you can’t even look at those unless you vent and whine and complain.

Talk therapy. People see different parts of us and different parts of our situation – they can provide real insight. Or bullshit – it’s up to you.  It’s not only therapists (although they’re pretty good at it).  Even water cooler conversations can lead you into some great conversations. 

Example: If you are not sure if you’re the only one frustrated – use open ended conversation starters….  “I was surprised at how <<the boss>> handled that call yesterday.”  You don’t have to say you were happy or sad or disappointed or disgusted.  Find out what the other people feel – the more people in the group the better.  Your use of ‘surprised’ will be the perfect opener to make the others feel like you agree with them – whatever they feel.  You will most likely find people who agree with you that you can commiserate with – it will help BOTH of you feel a lot better.  And maybe you’ll find a new friend at work – the best possible outcome.

Culture

I was told once by a consultant who specialized in culture, that when she looked around everything pointed to culture as the problem and the solution.  I didn’t believe her.  I thought everything was about being productive and working together because that’s what mattered to me.

When I looked at what, how, why I do (Thank you to Simon Sinek), I found a system: What = Same Road, Same Time, Same Direction. How = I manipulate the fabric of team dynamics.  Why = Create Accountability.

When I put it all that together and saw the system I create – you can’t have a system of positive accountability unless you have a positive culture that supports it. 

The reason I can turn projects around, even ones that are going up in flames, is that I change the micro culture of the project and create a system of accountability.

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