I love different cultures and people of different cultures. It was either innate or I learned it at an early age. I moved several times growing up, including moving from a town to a farm, from a farm to a city, from Oregon to Hawaii to California and back to Oregon. In Hawaii I experienced being a minority in a predominantly Japanese high school. It was a positive experience.
My parents raised me to be tolerant, because that was the language of their day. As I grew, however, I understood that tolerance isn’t enough, not nearly enough. I want to embrace differences. Not only racial, ethnic and gender differences, but also social and personal differences. Here are some of the ways I’ve honored diversity and individual uniqueness throughout my career:
Embrace diversty. As the managing consultant of the LA office of a global HR firm, I hired an Hispanic consultant at my first opportunity. I didn’t go looking for him, I simply knew when we met that he would bring new value and much-needed diversity to our team and to our clients. Result? He was and is a superstar.
In that same role, I recognized the uniqueness of each consultant on our team – their unique skills, strengths and experiences – and helped each one grow in their own way, while serving our clients and our firm.
Result? In our first fiscal year together we became one of the firm’s top-performing offices, based on employee satisfaction, client satisfaction and profit margins.
Assume positive intent. The vast majority of people want to do their best, do what they think is right. We might not always agree about the right thing to do, but if we acknowledge that other people’s motivations are positive, we can negotiate and work together more effectively. One of my clients told me he made this advice his mantra and, “It changed my life. It improved my relationships with my colleagues, my clients and my family.”
Lesson? Assume positive intent to build positive relationships and achieve positive results.
Build on commonalities. Several years ago, I worked with the Multnomah Bar Association on a project we titled “Bridging Generations.” Among many things we learned while surveying and interviewing attorneys from multiple generations, was the fact that attorneys across generations love the law. They don’t all love the practice of law, but they love the concept of the law. Next, we learned that lawyers across generations love challenges. Both of these facts can be used effectively in managing a firm of lawyers. For more information about what we learned go to Bridging Generations.
Lesson? Build on commonalities to improve engagement and outcomes.
Are you embracing diversity, assuming positive intent and building on commonalities in your professional and personal life? Whatever your role, you can have a highly positive impact on your organization – and your life – by adopting these three mindsets and behaviors.