As Garry Turner’s (The Listening Organisation) recent newsletter to subscribers pointed out, there is a lot of pressure in modern society to be ‘different’ or to stand out to be ‘the best’. ‘Differentiation’ has emerged alongside this, with companies and technology now seeking to tailor make their products or services to particular groups, subsets, demographics or even at the extreme to individual needs. We’re being told from so many angles that ‘being different is good.’
And yet as Garry points out, being different can also be polarising and separating. He goes onto explore connection as the antidote to difference or differentiation.
I had a different thought when I read his views. Whilst I wholeheartedly embrace the importance of connection as an antidote to difference or differentiation, it also made me question whether there was another way to achieve it.
What I get excited by is ‘diversity of uniqueness.’
This is where we have the possibility of celebrating everyone’s unique gifts and talents, accepting and welcoming our diversity of physical and mental ability, sexuality or gender, ethnicity, thought, cultures and backgrounds etc. And more than that – the possibility of acknowledging all of these as varied and valid expressions of humanity, whilst rejoicing in our connection as humans and our common humanity.
Commonly, current diversity programmes and initiatives seem to focus primarily on ensuring there is equal (or at least more diverse) representation in the workplace of genders in particular, with increasing focus on ethnicity. This is hugely important and needs tireless work on this and extensions of the principle (LGBTQ+ inclusion as one example.)
What seems to be less in the spotlight is the simpler act of celebrating the diversity of thought, experience, background that is present in many workplaces, teams and partnerships. Not enough diversity yet – and yet we don’t celebrate the richness that is already there.
Few partnerships or teams we’ve worked with are even aware of the huge range of even work experience that their peers, partners or colleagues have behind them, let alone the enormous diversity of other skills and talents. What if we first brought these into the forefront, and then celebrated them? And taking it further – once everyone is aware of these unique skills and talents – what if some of them could actually be proactively used in service of the partnership, team or organisation reaching their goals?
A case in point – a previous client of ours worked for a charity in their Media team. They were heavily involved in the intense annual three-month campaign period during which there was huge focus on PR, Comms, and where the norm became to work very long hours and pushing themselves to the limit. In a team session we facilitated for them, this individual shared that she had a passion for and quite extensive knowledge of Nutrition. “So what?” you might ask. Well, in times of particularly high pressure and long hours, one of the first things to go other than leisure time can be healthy eating – instead we start to skip meals, eat more ready meals, junk food or sugary snacks to boost our energy or just as a ‘treat’ to see us though the hard times. Often this is all counterproductive in terms of managing our energy and performance. Which is where someone with some good knowledge of nutrition might come in. In fact, when we discussed how these different secret skills could be used, the team agreed it would be a huge help if she could share some simple hacks on nutrition and energy management in busy times. It sounds almost too simple to be true or even useful, doesn’t it? But imagine the incremental benefit of avoiding some food that actually makes your blood sugar crash and your energy slump (with potential lost work quality), and instead perhaps maintaining the nutrition levels in your diet of the required vitamins and minerals, and how that could help the team stay healthier, perhaps avoid some of the bugs that go round, thereby avoiding sick days. Multiply this up over a team of 30 and you could save days of man hours, as well as on the upside improving focus, concentration and performance.
It’s just one example, but there are so many small things that could give your team or partnership a ‘Marginal Gain’ and improve performance incrementally, or help you avoid declines in performance. And you just don’t know what they could be until you explore the talents and skills of the people you already have.
Imagine doing this with a newly formed Partnership group, or a team. Imagine how it could help you to achieve your no doubt ambitious goals.
So – let’s be more proactive in celebrating our diversity of uniqueness. It can help to create a jigsaw or tapestry of a partnership or team that is far richer than the one we so often we stop at (with just our functional skills). And the process of exploring and celebrating it can create human connection at a deep and powerful level, in itself supporting more effective relationships and performance.
We’re happy to have an initial free conversation with anyone wanting to find out more about how you can help your team or partnership even more high performing, and to talk about your specific needs. Send us a message and we’ll be in touch.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your call.
Jo Wright is founder of Phoenix, and specialises in coaching Partnerships and Teams, from setting them up for success, to helping them to ‘reset’ when things are going off track.
Thanks to Garry Turner of The Listening Organisation for his newsletter which sparked the idea for this article.
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