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.

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I am a lucky man!

I am a very lucky man!

After a very long time as a very self-sufficient bachelor, a beautiful lady came into my life and in a moment I was married to her. I was notoriously slow and fearful in matters of love. Arthie, bless her active spirit, arranged a birthday party for me on my 45th birthday, bought a ring and on bended knee proposed to me! She then waited for me to set the date for the wedding.

After a brief time she asked me for some time on Valentine’s day – her birthday. I was hoping to take her on a helicopter, a yacht and a train ride on the day. I knew Arthie did not particularly like being up early – so I jokingly said, “Ok. How about 2 hours, between 7 am and 9 am. On the 13th we both participated in a fire walk, once more proving the resilience of our relationship. 
That evening Arthie sent me to the local pub, for a business meeting. Lo and behold, all of my friends were there and I began to put 2 and 2 together! It was my stag party! I felt a an amazing rush of excitement – I was getting married the next day!
We arrived early the next morning, at the beautiful Botanic Gardens. I was guided down to the tranquil bird-filled, tree-lined lake to await my beautiful bride. About 30 members of the family and our friends had gathered to witness our wedding. Arthie had arranged for the ceremony to be officiated by a marriage officer. He in turn had gathered as many hymn books as possible and handed them out to our pre-dominantly Hindi guests. 

My heart skipped a beat as my beautifully smiling bride appeared, flanked by her family. She glided stunningly towards me in her beautiful white wedding gown. Her image was reflected on the walkway in the pools of rainwater, as she stepped into my life and into my spirit. 

The ceremony was incredible and many scenes stand out for me. My mother sang “The best things in life are free.” The marriage officer, as a lay pastor, decided to carry out a full Christian ceremony. He even had our Hindu families and friends singing Christian hymns! I later found out that he was unsure that I would agree to this “surprise” wedding! 

I remember the beautiful birds gliding across the lake and a tiny one-legged bird scrounging for insects as we took our vows. In terms of South African law we had to sign the registration forms under a roof and we all squeezed tightly into a tiny office at the garden’s restaurant to do so. 

4 yr old Lliam & Dad in London

I will always take with me the special love and beauty of my incredible friend, guide and wife – Arthie. She is so much to me and to our little boy Lliam. She is a nurturer and a leader. She is a doer and designer. She is humble, yet she is strong. She is firm and yet she is sensitive. She is loving and forgiving.

 

And on top of all this she is a great daughter and daughter-in-law, a marvellous business person, an excellent sister and friend, a teacher and a listener, a shining star and a forward-focused wunderkind who lives in the now, whilst building her legacy for the future! 

One of the greatest leadership lessons that I have learnt from Arthie is that of standing back. I am a very strong person and often I take over when something needs to be done. My way gets results but no-one learns from it. Arthie takes a different tack, she shares some wisdom and leaves others to do complete the task. In this way the work gets done and someone else grows. A prime example is our son Lliam. 

When he first began to totter around our home, I went onto Daddy standby. The moment he stumbled, I would rush to catch him. My cool and calm guide said, “ He learns by falling. Let him fall.” I struggled against my protecting nature. And now Lliam falls, dusts himself off and carries on at full tilt into his next adventure. When he really hurts himself Arthie is always there for him, but she knows the difference between falling and hurting. 

When Lliam picked up a sharp knife, I nearly had a heart attack and Arthie showed him how to use it. When he made a mess, Arthie bought him a small broom and a mop. “I am not going to raise a man so that I have to clean up after him.” He is now 2 years and 8 months old and is an accomplished sweeper and mopper and even makes his own peanut butter sandwiches! 

Making sandwiches at his age may sound like a great achievement but that is not the half of it. The peanut butter and syrup are on a shelf more than two metres above the ground. The butter is high up in the fridge. Lliam pushes a bar stool to the high places, takes what he needs and makes a perfect sandwich! To top it all he returns each item to it’s rightful place! 

And two weeks ago he suddenly began washing the dishes. He kneels on his bar stool at the sink and washes away quite merrily. He then stacks the clean items in the correct places. This all started by being allowed to experience life without being affected by a bigger person taking over the task or by the unreasonable fears of a parent. “Get down! You will hurt yourself.” or, “Don’t touch that knife! You will cut yourself.” 

Standing back takes a lot of courage and selflessness. It is often selfish to take over when helping people and it takes bravery to allow a child to walk down stairs for the first time! Arthie has taught me that managers create controlled and limited results and that leaders create leaders who create brilliant results.Our little boy is fast becoming a leader who comfortably speaks English and Zulu and greets in 12 languages.

Lliam climbed into his gran’s car recently, released the brake, took it out of gear and  “drove” it down our gently inclined driveway until it came to a stop. Arthie and I arrived at the car at the same time. Arthie gently asked, “What are you doing Lliam?” Our little boy firmly stated, “I drive my car!” And we smiled and kept quiet. 

 Later he told, all who would listen, how he had parked “his” car. Indeed he had! He then asked for the car keys so that he could reverse the car back to where it came from. We didn’t give him the keys. Sometimes a leader understands when his student is just too short to reach the pedals or to see over the dashboard! 

Lliam is also offered choices. If he is doing something that we are not comfortable with he is offered a choice of other activities. Instead of wresting a knife out of his hand he may be offered a ride on his pushbike, or a paintbrush and paper. No attention is drawn to the knife, which he hands over without fuss, as Arthie draws attention to a fun and safe activity. I was raised with a strong focus on what I did wrong. Arthie always focusses our son on good activities and praises him on what he does well. Within 1 week of moving out of the diaper stage, Lliam was getting out of bed saying, “Look mommy, I am dry! Yeah! Yeahhhh!” Within a few weeks he is a “dry” baby, who notifies us when he needs the toilet. Arthie’s praise had created pride and she was rewarded with good behaviour – another great lesson for leaders.

Yes! I am a lucky man. Not only has Arthie helped our child to grow, she does that for everyone, including myself. She has taught me that I can “unite or be right.” A great lesson for those of us who have “all the answers”, or who try to manage every situation. Often when we over control, we lose control and break relationships. She has taught me that very few situations require my input. That I have greater value by allowing people to be and to do.
She is a great speaker and a guiding light in our transformational team-building business, where our focus is on uniting diverse people through their uniquenesses and their actions. She always intuitively knows when to move on to a new process. And if the group needs something special or something different, she knows and makes the change in pace and direction. Arthie is in tune with herself and with people and has saved many failing relationships, with her ability to listen and  gently help people move from being victims to becoming leaders.
She has taught me the value of giving and the sheer freedom in personal forgiveness. She has taught me that humanness far out-weighs “winning”. She has taught me about the power of “us” and the value of family. She has taught me that the world rewards action and not thought.
And she is so incredibly beautiful in every possible way! Yes! I am indeed a very lucky man!
Brian V Moore©
Durban – South Africa. 3 November 2003
Update
I am still a lucky man
Sitting here this morning in September 2006 and reflecting upon where we were, when I wrote the first part of our story makes me smile. 
Our little business was struggling, we owed hundreds of thousands – to banks and suppliers.
In reality we were in deep trouble, financially and our fledgling business was on it knees. The luckiest man in the world was days away from losing his home. And yet I had never felt so lucky! Days after sending out the Lucky Man newsletter, work came pouring in. 
Within 8 months we had cleared our debt. Our business took its first leaps into surrounding countries. We spent time at the beautiful Lake Kariba, – bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe.
And now we are firmly a strongly and international company. Our program – Celebrating Humanity© – changes lives and the world in wonderful and positive ways. Our life’s work will take us to Namibia, Tanzania, Ghana and Mocambique in the near future. And hopefully – the USA and the UK.
But more importantly – Arthie is still a wonderful loving wife and mother, a wonderful friend and an incredible agent for universal transformation.
Lliam is now a wonderful big brother! 
2 yr old Kailash, in Namibia

Young Kailash is 2 months old. He is cute, happy, bubbly and smiley. He is a reflection of his family’s love and contentment. He bubbles with joy when his 5 year old brother burps him, baths him or holds him.

We are now 4. And I am still the luckiest and happiest man in the world. What a wonderful journey life can be, if we simply choose to focus on our happiness.
Brian Moore – September 2006.Update

Kailash, Myself, Lliam & Arthie
On our smallholding – 2010

My beautiful gift Arthie, has delivered 2 beautiful, loving, intelligent and of course naughty boys into our lives. I would not trade any of them for anything!

Young, bright and fun Kailash, is now almost 5 years old and has started school. He bakes with me and cooks with his mother and he is an absolute delight!

Lliam has moved from home school to a public school. He is excelling and is showing his genius at every turn. He too is brilliant in the kitchen and technically. And has upgraded to a vacuum cleaner!

Arthie and I have been married to each other 7 different ways now! Including a Hindu weddng, a Shamanic wedding in the Drakensburg mountains, a Scottish wedding in Gretna Green – in Scotland, a Las Vegas wedding and we retook our vows in a hot air balloon over the Magaliesberg mountains of South Africa.
Our journey has taken us to Namibia, USA, UK, Europe, Zambia and Hong Kong where we have delivered talks, presentations, team building, team conflict resolution and diversity training. Without the wonderful impact of Arthie on my life none of this would have been possible.
I will always be lucky and always be in awe of her incredible care, brilliance, humanness and laughter.
April 2011
Brian MooreThe luckiest man in the World!
Durban – South Africa.
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