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The survival of a hive of honeybees is dependent upon the collaborative and collective efforts of every bee. The work of the hive is divided into specific tasks, each with designated worker bees. Only when every bee is doing its work can the hive stockpile the honey needed to survive the cold winter. A company is like a beehive that depends upon the collective effort of all of its employees. It is critical that each employee understands their role and how it contributes to the success and of the company.
There are times when faced with the choice of following the rules or fighting for a principal such as equality, that a fight against the rules is the right action to take. When working in a diverse environment, pay attention for opportunities to fight for the principal of inclusion instead of following the unspoken rule of “that is the way it has always been done.”
An enduring whimsical tradition that many people are familiar with is the act of placing a written message in a bottle and tossing it into the sea. The composer of the message has no idea who is going to receive the message or when they might get it -or if anyone will at all. Not knowing the end recipient of the message limits the ability to communicate with intention. Communication across differences is often done in a similar fashion.
When working on diverse teams, sometimes you have to create your own opportunities by putting forth new ideas, proposing collaborations, and building networks that will help accomplish your goals.
Work forces around the world are diversifying daily. Understanding the implications of a diversified workplace or marketplace is critical for any organization. A company that lacks the ability to attract and retain diverse employees risks dulling its competitive edge. Being proactive about assessing and understanding demographic trends allows an employer to prepare for change rather than react to a trend after the fact.
When working on teams, having a different point of view can provide powerful insight, if people feel respected enough to share that idea. If the team lacks respect for individuals then great ideas won’t be shared. Being respectful of others’ points of view is the first step to developing powerful teams.
America’s best-known Colorado River explorer was John Powell, who lost his right arm in the Civil War at the Battle of Shiloh. In 1869, he started with 10 men to explore the length of the Colorado River. Three months later, six would complete their journey after some harrowing experiences. Powell returned in 1871, to map the river and to conduct geological studies. Powell inspired courage and belief in the men that he led and he never put any limitations on his abilities. While not battling white water rapids, working on diverse teams with divergent points of view, creates opportunities for a different kind of courage.
On the surface, a desert appears sparse and desolate. The harsh conditions do not seem conducive to growth. Yet, on the rare occasions that rain soaks the desert, it becomes a plethora of color and life - often overnight. Sometimes team projects seem like a desert, as if all of the efforts are providing little visible signs of growth. And yet, when the right ingredient arrives, the program flourishes and ‘flowers’ on cue.
Like the surfer selecting the right wave, people encounter endless opportunities for growth and must decide whether the opportunity is worth the inherent risks involved. Some opportunities may involve moving to a new country, working with colleagues with different backgrounds, or taking on a new role.
On teams, it is important to be willing to invest time into the lives of other team members. We do this by learning about what they need and what obstacles they face and by then offering our assistance. This investment pays off in greater team cohesion, inclusion, and trust, as well as the removal of obstacles that stand in the way.
The U.S. railroad was started in 1862 during the Civil War. President Lincoln and Congress understood both the symbolism of connecting the country and also the need to think long term, even while the country fought within itself. The railroad removed geographic barriers, spread ideas, and introduced a new way of life – a fresh start that was badly needed. Building a railroad symbolically within a team can mean bridging together two divergent points of view, bringing new insight into a situation.
Unlike other pine trees that shed their pine cones and seeds annually, the pine cones of the jack pine will hold on to their seeds indefinitely until exposed to intense heat. In the charred wake of a forest fire, jack pine seedlings take root and begin the forest’s rebirth. Like a fire, a conflict between colleagues with different work styles and backgrounds can cause short pain and intense emotions.
Tree limbs grow so that the leaves can absorb sunlight, the energy needed to sustain and create growth. Obstacles never stop a tree from finding the sunshine. Limbs bend around buildings, grow over street signs, and through abandoned structures. In the same way that trees need to be flexible and persistent in their quest to find sunlight, diversity projects need to grow under, through, or around any obstacles that block their path moving forward.
While your colleagues in the workplace communicate both verbally and non-verbally, understanding how to interpret their nonverbal communication can be a great advantage. Keep in mind that the meaning behind body language and facial expressions may vary from culture to culture, so it is always good to check for understanding.
When working on teams, it is important not to look at limitations but instead at the potential contribution that each person can make – regardless of what kind of package that contribution comes in. This will allow you to maximize the skills and abilities of all team members.
In the sport of barrel racing, when a horse and rider are working well together, the horse will intuitively move under the rider if it feels the rider start to fall. This automatic response is only possible due to the bond and unspoken communication that develops between a horse and a rider through the many hours of practicing together. When you devote time and effort to communicating with a colleague, especially one from a background different than your own, you can improve the fluency of your communication and eventually be able to detect minute changes in these communications.
Across the globe, cave drawings thousands of years old have preserved the remnants of ancient civilizations. While the drawings may be scattered over great distances and originate from different cultures, they all have one aspect in common: they tell stories. The drawings recount stories about successes, hunts, trials, and daily life. Storytelling is at the heart of what makes us human and is a universal tool used by groups of people to explain who they are and the experiences that shaped their history. While we might not use cave drawings anymore, we still use storytelling to capture collective histories and lessons learned.
A guitar in the hands of a novice is simply an object to hold. In the hands of a master, that same guitar becomes an instrument that makes beautiful music. The guitar itself does not change; it just requires well-developed skills to unlock its musical potential. With effective instructions, open communication, and management support, employees are able to unlock and cultivate their natural talents and interests into skills that add to the strength of their team.
Hear the word flour and what comes to mind is probably baking, bread, and pizza crust. The preconceived notion that flour is only found in baked goods can lead to surprise when it is discovered that it can also be an ingredient in: pasta sauce, hot dogs, salad dressing, soup, taco sauce, and even dog food. Having preconceived notions about other people is like assuming that you know all of the ingredients of an item of food just by looking at it.
Both captains and lighthouse keepers have roles that, although different, are important to the navigation of ships. Likewise, each position within a company plays an important role in helping the company to navigate the global marketplace. When employees understand how their role contributes to team success, they are able to take pride in doing their job well and in contributing to the overall progress of the company.