Diversity is a good thing – not something to be feared!

A story on the power that leaders, team members and their organisations gain, when they understand the true value of diversity in teams.

And we are ALL leaders!

Arthie and I had just kicked off the Celebrating Humanity programme, in 2001 – which covered Diversity training, Team conflict resolution and Transformational team building. We had been struggling with our basic team building aspects of diversity training. We simply had to move away from the chalk-and-talk, death-by-powerpoint methods of training.

A decision was taken to run our training, as a celebration of who we and our delegates were, and focused into team competitions – as a way to change the spirit of the people and the training environment.

But we were still struggling with the make-up of the teams. So many of our delegates, in the early days, were literally forced into the room. A great number were former combatants or had been isolated by propaganda – each one choosing to be “with their own people.” This limited the interaction and caused inter-team conflict.

As we worked at developing the team building methodologies – we had many realisations. A huge principal grew for us:- “In order to be true leaders, we have to accept that other people add to us.”

And we needed to ensure that our delegates experienced the fact that their unique skills, knowledge and wisdom must be shared and nurtured in order for them to be integral parts of of powerful and professional teams. In Zulu it is said “Inkosi yinkosi ngabantu” – a leader is only a leader by virtue of her/ or his people – the meaning was becoming clearer by the minute. People in their diversities make us who we are.

I have always understood that my sons and my wife bring unbelievable value and add to me. Now I knew that people who disagree with me, also add to me. People who are different, or who have different views and opinions, bring great value to me.

And perhaps they add to me far more than those who always concur with me. And 19th Century Poet Laureate, Lord Alfred Tennyson knew it, when he said, “I am a part of all that I have met.”

As our thoughts expanded, we realized that we also add to other people. That we too have value.

If only I had learned this as a child, as a teenager, or even 10 years ago. It would have stopped my “rightness” and my need to defend my opinions. I would no longer have had to “win arguments.” And as a consequence lose my friends and break relationships.

It was so simple. All people in their varied histories, religions, education, cultures, skills, experiences, pains and joys make us more human. And can, if we are open to their uniqueness, help us to build our lives, families, teams and organisations.

So diversity is a good thing. Not something to be feared but something to be sought out. Not something to be judged but something to learn from. Not something to be contradicted but something to be built upon!

We then realized that the more inclusive and diverse our teams are, the more we win! And, conversely, the more we follow the old proverb of “birds of a feather flock together”, the more we separate and stagnate. And the more we confirm our stereotypes and prejudices.

The birth of Celebrating Humanity Diversity Training Methodologies-

During our Celebrating Humanity©, our international transformational team-building and diversity sensitivity training programme, we needed to find a way to get people into diverse teams, without marginalising them.

Obviously to send people to their teams, as we perceived their skills, talents, genders and cultures to be, was manipulative. When people come to the programme they are often angry, in pain and very divided. And we have been told, on numerous occasions… “Mention race, or racism, just once and we will leave the room, and never come back.”

In our first 2 sessions, we tried placing the delegates’ manuals at the various tables, and asked the delegates to sit wherever they found their manuals.

We would guess by their names and surnames, where they “should” be. It was a time-wasting exercise and one that only partly had the effect that we wanted. People still felt as if they had been pre-judged. And it was true.

Once we had defined the teams, in this way, we would then get each person to introduce another, on a human level. Many of them knew little or nothing about their fellow team members. This was a good part of the exercise and there was good benefit. But the pre-selected teams did not truly gel.

Arthie and I took a step back and looked at the opening of the programme and we realized that the delegates had to select their own teams.

We know that people normally choose the people they are most like, or with whom they are most comfortable. If this were to be the case, they would not fully experience each other as human beings. Nor would they understand the value of diversity and the value of “different” people.

We then developed the team selection principle of “who adds to me.” In order for this to work, we honed the interview questions to be more in line with the programme outcomes, the competitions and the team points system.

Before the introductions, we advised the teams that they would be selecting their teams based upon competitions and we told them of the bases of the competitions.

In South Africa, this included eating habits of various groups, proverbs, cultural knowledge, language, traditions, religion, drawing skills, dance skills and hula-hooping skills. We also advise teams to get their gender split right, as there is much wisdom to be found in all people.

Internationally, we work with the artistic/ dance, hula-hoop, talents, experiences, local knowledge and the qualifications of the teams. For example, with the Bank of Zambia, one aspect of the team competitions, drew upon individuals’ knowledge of international financial markets.

In South Africa, once conflicted groups selected teams that went across, level, position,  ability, culture, age, gender, race, language and religion. And the team knowledge was incredible – thus their opportunities to learn were equally massive!

In Zambia the selections went across level, position, gender, age and experience.

Some feedback

Senior management delegates at Lake Kariba, said:- “Very well received, a unique delivery technique.”, ” Delivery standard – World Class.”, “The course has broken interpersonal barriers.”

One of our Ethekwini Municipality (Durban and surrounds) delegates had this to say… “Change goes deeper than a cross on an election ballot, or learning a “black” language, or being able to live wherever you choose, or even affirmative action… From President to petty thief, and city manager to general worker, we are all unique and yet all the same. We are all humankind – the South African way.”

Another delegate closes off his feedback, on his personal transformation, with… “We have a country rich in people who are unique in their variety. Our uniqueness is special. If we open our hearts to it we will all grow and become more special. Let us all embrace the uniqueness and utilize it to shine brighter for us all.”

Our change in Celebrating Humanity© team selection methodologies had multiple effects. Here are four…

Firstly, delegates now listen very carefully to the introductions. They begin to know each other better, from the earliest possible moment. A delegate from SA Container Depots… “Now I know my team members. For past 10 years I have walked right past them without greeting. Now I have friends who I know. I will greet them all in the future.”

Secondly, they chose their own team members, in a totally new and aware way. Because they add to each other, they almost always get the diversity right. When they do not, it shows up in their team’s lack of points. Delegate Luanne Schmidt, says.. “The experience has left me with a sense of joy that if each one of us in our wonderful “Rainbow nation” takes the time to really get to know and understand the traditions and cultures that make this such an exciting country to live in, we truly will become a nation to be envied.”

Thirdly, they began to experience the power of sharing wisdom and working together in diverse teams. This is extending outside of the training room. Another Ethekwini delegate had this to say… “I have accommodated all these people and other cultures in my heart, in a similar way. All of them are so important in my life. There is a lot that I can learn from them about my personality, their personalities as well as my country.”

And point number four, they begin to understand their own multi-faceted value and their marvellous uniquenesses! A once fearful, and now newly-trained, Celebrating Humanity facilitator in the Ethekwini Municipality Diversity Training programme… “Truly we are catalysts of change. We have the power, the ability, the training, the desire and the courage!”

They had taken the first step towards realizing that diversity and uniqueness in team members creates greater opportunities for learning, growth and success.

They also took the first steps towards becoming the leaders of tomorrow. Leading with each other, for each other – together.

And through them, we begin to lead and leave our legacy for the future!

Brian V Moore© 13/4/2005
“At the level of respect all people are equal”

There are many such simple yet innovating aspects to the numerous Celebrating Humanity© programmes. “The Celebrating Humanity© programme is not simply a “programme”, it is not just a “course”. It is a “cause.” – Celebrating Humanity Facilitator – Ethekwini Municipality.

And now something valuable at no cost to you!

Articles and Stories, PLUS information on the Celebrating Humanity© programmes, can be found on:- http://www.africa-dreams.com/

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

Brian V Moore Website

Diversity Training in South Africa

Africa Dreams Website – Celebrating Humanity International

Celebrating Humanity Projects

Team Building in South Africa

Celebrating Humanity Blog

Celebrating Humanity on Facebook

Contact

Mobile: +27 (0)79 643 4457

Fax: +27 866 746 310

Recent Celebrating Humanity Feedback – Judi Meyer

Feedback from our recent Celebrating Humanity work, near Pretoria…
This 1 day Celebrating Humanity Eye Opener Diversity Training program was facilitated at St Georges Hotel – near Centurion – on 3 May 2012.
Hi Brianand ArthieI have received very positive feedback from the day we spent with you and as you can imagine this experience has also set my thoughts into a different direction which I would like to share with you.

The main change I am experiencing at the moment is the realisation that we started this company because we felt that the corporate environment we where in was no longer “fun” and that we felt the working environment oppressive in the sense that there was no space for individuals and that each persons efforts and individual value add was not recognised. Unfortunately the challenges we face daily in the business environment and inter personally between the share holders has meant that this is the exact environment we have created!

I have learnt that I need to remember that it really is people who make a business and that we need to create an environment where these people can grow and have fun. That HR is about this and that this is where we now need to focus on this in order for us to create the business we set out to do! This will be my personal challenge and I hope that I will be able to integrate this into our company culture.

More than the content of your workshop I would like to thank you for sharing the “you” that you both are! I think this has had the greatest effect on all of us.

Judi Meyer | Financial Manager and Director
Delphius Commercial and Industrial Technologies

Request a Team Building, Diversity Training
or Team Conflict Resolution proposal –
on http://www.celebrating-humanity-projects.com
or email: brian@africa-dreams.com
or call +27 79 643 4457

Video – Diversity Training and Conflict Resolution

Here is an a short video of a 3 day – plus 1 day follow-up team building/ diversity training/ team conflict resolution – facilitated by Mthimkhulu International (Now Celebrating Humanity International – the Team Building in South Africa specialists.

Enjoy,

Brian V Moore

Request a Team Building quotation, Diversity Training quotation
or Team Conflict Resolution proposal

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead.

Brian V Moore Website

Diversity Training in South Africa

Africa Dreams Website – Celebrating Humanity International

Celebrating Humanity Projects

Team Building in South Africa

Celebrating Humanity Blog

Celebrating Humanity on Facebook

Contact

Mobile: +27 (0)79 643 4457

Fax: +27 866 746 310

Protecting one’s Turf – McDonnel’s road

Conflict will often arise in the workplace, when we cross into team members “domains”, the special little side-empires that they have built. Their “departments”, or their offices. They live in fear that this space will be changed, by those around them.

They live in a small space, and suffer their pains alone. They believe that no-one else has felt their pain. And they feel the need t0 fight to protect their turf and keep their pain, as a reason to live.

I was on one of the Isles of Aran, off the West Coast of Ireland, yesterday – with my beautiful wife, Arthie.

We were taken on a tour of the island by a man, on his horse and carriage… His name was McDonnel and a very talkative man was he. He explained at length about his 100 year old carriage, where it came from, how it was made and how it was built with special wood. “Steamed it to bend it, they must have.” he said – a number of times.

As we went along the beautiful, rock-walled roads, he began to discuss every aspect of the road, and how “they” could make it better.

As each vehicle, bicycle and person entered into his 5 mile “domain”, he complained. They should not be on his road, they should move over…etc.

When a mini-bus needed to pass, he told us, “They shouldn’t be here. It’s not right. They are too big for the road.” He almost shouted under his wind-burnt lips.

As he went he commisserated with Jimmie, his beautiful horse. And if Jimmie could talk, he would complain about the stopping, too. His head bounced high, after each stop – he too was on Jimmie’s (McDonnels’s) road.

Now I understood McDonnel, I could see how this was his whole world was wrapped into those short and beautiful 5 miles of road. I could understand why he repeated himself to me – because surely, I would never understand – I was not from McDonnel’s road, or the Isles of Aran. McDonnel earns about 50 Euro per day (+-R600), for the one trip that he and Jimmie will make.

Poor McDonnel. Alone, in his perception, saddened by his circumstance, because all of his life was based in his little road. Alone by choice, and looking for somewhere or somebody to blame.

This is one of the many challenges that we face in the workplace and can be likened to departmentalism.

Enjoy,

Brian