A Leading Perspective

Pragmatic insights for the leader in you

Diversity for Dinner

Sometimes, “different” is what you need.

My mom, Carol Strider

 

My daughter, Carolyn, invited just shy of ten friends over for dinner last week, about half were young adults I had never met.

As with any dinner in my house, everyone needs to pitch in and help; not only does this make quick work of everything, it gives me the opportunity to interact with the people I am about ready to feed.

I found myself choosing a favorite; he was a young man – the tallest and the gangliest of the bunch. He was a bit awkward, appeared nearly nervous when I asked him to help me with something on the stove, and rarely made eye contact. During dinner, he ate the most and engaged the most with my six year old son. After dinner and throughout the evening, he exhibited both bashful and humorous behaviors, appearing to be confident in some areas and downright overwhelmed in others.

Anyway, I liked him immediately and the next day, talked with Carolyn about him.  It was then that I learned that out of all of the young adults here that evening, he was the one who, in Carolyn’s opinion, had it “the roughest.” Carolyn told me he has a rough family life, rough time at school/grades, rough time with money, etc.  I asked Carolyn how this young man came to be a part of her circle.  While she couldn’t pinpoint any particular moment, she did offer this nugget of wisdom when she said,

“He’s different, mom, really different from anyone else.  But you know, it works for me, and I like him in our group.”

I won’t bore you with my full conversation with Carolyn but know that it was a discussion about some fantastic things including but not limited to judgment, compassion, assumptions, perspective and diversity.

 

yin and yangReflecting upon our conversation, I thought back to some of my “favorite” staff, my “most appreciated” colleagues, and my “most enjoyable” customers/clients.

For the most part, they were and still are very different from me.

But like the perfect puzzle piece, they have fit nicely into my own idiosyncrasies, habits and styles.

 

My friend, Joe Gerstandt, suggests that we should not simply “accept” people who are different but instead, we should “seek out” diversity in our friendships, work relationships, etc.

Joe is right, and I urge you to validate this by thinking of your own “successful” relationships.  I bet they were the yin to your yang, the negative to your positive, the peanut butter to your chocolate, etc.  Perhaps they weren’t polar opposites but I’m willing to bet they “completed you” in a way that others more similar to you could not.

 

I won’t preach Diversity to you today…Joe does a fantastic job and I could never fill his shoes. Alas, therein lies the beauty – I don’t need to.  Joe is in my posse, he’s totally unlike me, and he brings to the table something I cannot.

(By the way, you may like this video from Joe; it’s about 7.5 minutes long and totally worth watching!)

 

Instead of preaching today, I will challenge you to do two things:

1) Identify someone in your life (personal, professional or otherwise) who is different than you, and for some reason or another, is not someone with whom you have cultivated a good relationship.

2) Feed that relationship so you can add that person to your circle, to your posse, or to your network.

 

You, like Carolyn, may find that your new relationship “works” for you.

Good luck.

 

AcceptanceCommunicationsDiversityEmployee EngagementEmployee RelationsEngagementHappinessHuman ResourcesLeadershipTeamworkWorkforce Satisfaction

Heather Kinzie • October 4, 2013


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