The Significant Value of Difference

 

In an ideal world, everyone we interact with understands us fully and sees the world the way we do. Making life happier, more straightforward, and consistent.

The world we live in is the way we interpret the world. Built on a foundation of the lives that we have led from before birth to right now. And as we all come from different life experiences, so our perspective on even the simplest things is different from anyone else’s. We base our world on what we know from the information we process.

Every single one of us is uniquely different in how we see our world, and sometimes it takes a bit of effort to rub along with everyone else.

Which is hardly surprising!

 

The Leadership Challenge

When we lead others, we are in just the same position. Life seems more comfortable when we have people around us who we get on with. People who, when we communicate with them, understand what we say. Yet it’s unrealistic to expect this consistently.

And it’s not hard to see why misunderstandings and frustrations happen.

Because everyone else we communicate with comes from their own, different perspective and see and hear things in different ways than we do. From their world view, they interpret the best they can and usually try their best to meet our expectations.

And that can cause problems.

So, when we lead others, we have to be sure that we are on the same wavelength as our people, by checking and summarizing with them that they really do get the message we intend.

Unambiguous communication between people who see the world a little differently is vital. As a leader you must appreciate the challenge this presents and take personal ownership to ensure everyone is on the same page (in the UK, we say ‘Singing from the same hymn sheet’!).

 

Something Else

There is another thing.

Something that will significantly add value to your leadership and how you get the best from assets you have in the people around you.

With a natural human tendency to like to be around people like us, the converse is also true. We find it much more challenging to be with people who are very different from us. It can grate; be uncomfortable, and even hinder trust and openness. We are unalike, so our behaviours and attitudes can seem alien to each other.

Without being prejudiced, often leaders will carry biases, naturally going out of their way to surround themselves with similar people, and recruiting more candidates they like as they fill their team.

Yet maybe they are missing a trick.

For when we consider the value that people who are different bring when they have varied views to the leader and others already in the team, this offers great potential.

As a leader, when you have people who are very similar to you in your team, you need to be aware that this can reduce effectiveness. A tunnel-vision approach where people get on well and cannot see outside the general perspective leaves blind-spots. On the other hand, when leaders overtly engage people who are very different, new, disruptive possibilities can be beneficial.

Your role as a leader is to facilitate contributions from the whole spectrum of the team, such that they are well received and considered and added into the mix of thinking to provide the best opportunities, however difficult these might seem.

And here is the value of differences. If you bring people into your team who are different to you, as well as to the existing views, you create a much more comprehensive range of possibilities, if you make sure everyone is heard and valued.

It might be a little uncomfortable, and it might require some shifts that you do not readily want to make, yet when you engage with broader views, you open up the opportunities for much richer; more productive debate.

Which adds enormous value to the team you lead.

 

"I’m Martin Haworth and I’m a coach and trainer from Gloucester, England. I work with clients to help them maximise their leadership skills, in their personal development and to take action in their careers to achieve the futures they want. Since 2001 I’ve been coaching people from all over the world, as well as training groups of leaders, developing their skills to make them even more effective. I came into coaching from a career leading teams large and small for over 25 years, as well as delivering organisational change programs and in HR management too. These experiences gave me great insights into the challenges leaders face and I'm delighted to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way. When I work with individuals, my goal is to enable them to make progress in their lives and work. To do this, we engage in conversations where I give them the space to talk - and by listening carefully, I help them find solutions to challenges they are facing. The conversations we have are a fun collaboration, in a safe and confidential space. The outcome is a result of the partnership we have together, to help them make really valuable progress."

Martin Haworth
Executive Coach

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