Leadership Today
Diversity , Understanding Differences
6/3/2010 6:52:29 AM Link 1 comment | Add comment


For my third entry on diversity, I want to address the importance of understanding differences in the workplace. Individual personalities are complex and certainly diverse, and these differences can have a tremendous impact within an organization. I’m talking specifically about behavior and communication styles. 

Think about how these differences impact our actions. They affect the way we view and act in relationships, the way we learn, the way we communicate. They even influence our choice of career. 
Within the workplace, our differences can impact:
  • Communicating
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Handling conflict
  • Planning and setting goals
  • Managing and/or implementing change
  • Dealing with stress
  • Building a team
  • Leading a team
The list goes on. Each of these elements can be impacted positively or negatively, depending on our level of awareness concerning the differences and how we deal with them. For example, an organization could be crippled by an inability to effectively handle conflict. But the same organization, with a process in place for managing conflict and reaching consensus, could use the same diversity to come up with a huge range of ideas, plans or solutions.
When dealing with differences in the workplace:
  • Show a genuine interest in others- ask them questions and learn about their preferences
  • Respect other’s rights to be different - you can respect without agreeing
  • Reserve judgment – make sure you don’t stereotype
  • Don’t be intimidated by or afraid of differences
Many of us have participated in “personality” or “behavioral” assessments in the workplace. In fact, ATC regularly uses these assessments with our customers. These tools, when properly administered, can be valuable in helping identify the behavioral preferences or styles that make up a work team. Additionally, when teams invest in learning more about behavioral diversity, they can better interact with coworkers, partners and customers.
Imagine your team as a jigsaw puzzle. Some team members are curved, some jagged, some turned inward, some outward. Each brings different qualities and different contributions. Ideally, each are working to fit in and working toward the team’s goals. What a great analogy for the power of diversity! We’re all different, but we’re all needed to complete the picture. 

Many thanks for your interest,

 Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations 



Cultural Diversity
5/24/2010 4:04:39 PM Link 0 comments | Add comment


In this second entry on diversity, I’ll introduce the topic of culture and cultural differences. To get started, I researched some “official” definitions for the term culture. Dictionary.com had a dozen different definitions. Here are the two that best fit our topic of diversity:

-The sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
-The behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.
This really amounts to a set of collectively held values. Many of us think first of race or nationality when we consider the term culture. And since many organizations operate on a global scale, cultural diversity in the workplace is frequent. Individuals from different parts of the world can have different approaches to doing business. Examples include:
  • Time Management
  • Communication Styles
  • Perspective on Results
  • Business Relationships
  • Power and Authority
  • Handling Conflict
 This is only a partial list. You can imagine the potential differences that can arise from these examples alone. There can be breakdowns or misunderstandings in each of these areas and many others. One person’s “way of doing business” can be very strange or even offensive to individuals with different cultural backgrounds.
This dynamic applies to most of us. We work for a global organization, exist in a diverse workplace, or have customers or even competitors from around the world. If any of these apply, it can be important to spend some time focusing on cultural diversity.
There is challenge as we work through our cultural differences, but there is also the opportunity for a widened business perspective that can benefit the individuals and their organization. As I mentioned in my last blog – we should strive to leverage our diversity rather than allowing it to limit us in our work.
There are many models, books and articles that can provide insight into cultural diversity. Awareness of potential differences can prepare us for actions in others that might differ from our own behavior. This can be a valuable starting point, but it’s important to remember that no model should be considered in absolutes. It would be a critical mistake to generalize based on race or country. Everyone should be considered an individual.
Remember these important points:
  • There are no right or wrong, good or bad in cultural differences. Try to see differences as a possibility rather than a problem because “they aren’t doing it my way.” 
  • Learning about cultural differences is not about trying to be like the other person/people. The richness in multi-cultural teams comes from the differences. Embrace the differences.
  • Whatever you know about cultural differences, it won’t all apply, or even apply in the same way to everybody.
  • However much you think you know, you will always get some things wrong. The key is to show genuine interest in learning. Be empathetic, respectful and interested.
 More to come next time.
Thanks for your continuing interest,
Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations 

5/17/2010 6:45:24 AM Link 0 comments | Add comment


This entry will be the first in a series of blogs that I’ll post on the topic of diversity.    Organizations have been participating in diversity training for many years. The topic has been around for a long time, but organizations still struggle with the challenges that diversity can present.

To begin, it’s important to define what diversity really is. When we think of the term diversity in the workplace, we often consider only cultural or ethnic diversity.
Being diverse simply means being different. Within any organization, there can be cultural, behavioral/personality, age and gender differences. This is only a partial list of the ways we are different! Obviously, with so much diversity, there are plenty of opportunities to differ in the way we approach doing business.
From my perspective, when a team is addressing diversity, it is best to approach the issue in a positive way. NOT, How can we deal with diversity? Instead, What can we gain from our diversity? Diversity can be a challenge, but it is also a huge opportunity.
Think about a time when diversity impacted one of your work projects. Maybe there was a brainstorming session where no one agreed. Perhaps the members of your project team had completely different ideas about how to approach project goals. 
  • How much frustration did the team experience? 
  • How much time was wasted in unresolved disagreement? 
  • How was the project outcome impacted?
An answer to these questions can help you gauge how successfully your team is addressing diversity. If the project was hindered by the team’s differences, you might need to implement some strategies for addressing diversity.
Here are a few quick tips:
When leading or participating in a diverse team setting:
1.    Show a genuine interest in others- ask them questions to explore their perspective and opinions
Understanding someone’s “frame of reference” can be really helpful when you’re trying to come to agreement.
2.    Respect other’s rights to be different - you can respect without agreeing
This is critical! You must maintain respect in all of your work and communication with your team. The minute the respect is gone, the team is hurt – trust and the commitment to support one another are diminished.
3.    Reserve judgment -- watch out for your filters
Our filters are our preconceptions about others based on the qualities we observe or think we observe in them. An example – making an assumption about the validity of someone’s opinion or actions based on gender, age, religion, ethnic background, etc. 
4.    Don’t be intimidated by differences
It’s human nature to avoid people or situations that are different than what we’re used to. Make an effort to avoid this tendency. Be open to differences.
I remember a particularly frustrating meeting that I participated in with individuals from a variety of countries. We were having a really difficult time aligning on an approach for a new training curriculum. I found myself getting emotional and resentful. Then I asked myself, “What do they see that I don’t? And what can I learn from their experience that I’ve yet to learn?” Thankfully, I slowed myself down enough to be open. I’ve repeated those questions to myself more than once over the years, and they’ve served me well.
My next entry will focus on cultural diversity. There are some interesting definitions and models that I’m eager to share. In the meantime, think about the diverse make-up of your team. How can this diversity be leveraged to reach your organizational/team goals?

Many thanks,

Angela Gallogly, ATC Vice President of USA Operations 




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