Not so long ago, I was having a conversation with a colleague about the educational outcomes of indigenous students in Victorian schools. This conversation also included discussions about attitudes and dispositions indigenous Australians have towards their land and towards each other in their culture and community. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with my colleague, who is also indigenous, and found some of the perspectives of the indigenous Australian culture reflected some of my own, in particular the connection of people to the land.
The conversation gave me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of another culture, and my understanding and appreciation for its views and richness. It got me thinking about how many people stop to reflect on the reality that in all those we are surrounded by, the chances of there being an element of attitude, philosophy, disposition and values that you share with them is extremely high.
With much public discourse on the differences between people based on gender, religious preference and sexual identify, I think the more diverse a culture, the more empowered and rich our lives are.
When thinking of the work place, diversity brings different views and concepts to the ideation, initiation or implementation phase of a project. It has the potential to heighten commitment to the shared vision and helps breed tolerance and compassion. Leading a team of diverse individuals presents both challenges and opportunities for any leader, working to ensure individual meets are met as well as the commitments of the team.
How do you inspire the team that draws on different value sets, and move them collectively towards an end goal? Most often, it is done through identification of shared values.
A useful tool to help with this is an Empathy Map, often used to identify customer perspectives which are then used to help map their user experience of a product or service, which in turn can lead to refinements in business processes and the overall customer experience. This tool is equally useful in developing empathy within an organisation as it helps develop or strengthen understanding and appreciation of the differences amongst teams and individuals that make up that organisation.
Appreciating the circumstances, preferences, and perspectives of others is also a chance to stop and appreciate the differences in yourself, that you may not give voice to. Differences are not signs of difficulty, nor a negation of the things that are different from one another, it rather they are a window into the possibility of the unknown, the unchallenged, the new. Perhaps this is what we don’t know how to respond to, and when we interact with others, we find the differences they have scare us from fully engaging and accepting what another person brings to the conversation, the work project, the community group or the family unit.
You may be surprised, like I was, to find out that there is more of others in you, and you in others, than you realise.