In today’s world we are always close to others who are different, whether as a result of cultural and ethnic diversity in our local communities or because of our electronic connection with the global community. Inside every organization there are differences as well, multiple viewpoints, opinions, experiences and working relationships.
Successfully incorporating differences into your organization requires a sound foundation, built upon a clear understanding of what is deeply important to employees.
How do you build a solid, effective approach to embracing differences?
Seek first to understand and then build your values, mission and vision accordingly. To understand, ask and listen. Ask clients, potential clients, staff and community what they believe is most important and why they hold those views. Always confirm your understanding of what you think you have heard.
Take these broad inputs, and build statements describing your organization’s values in key areas such as fairness, diversity, integrity and safety. Title each theme and support it with clear statements of behaviour that reflect those values.
Craft your mission describing how the organization delivers benefits to your diverse population. Size up the evolving differences in your client community. Identify both the best opportunities and threats to your goals. Look inside for strengths and weaknesses. The conjunction of your strengths and future opportunities underlie the mission.
Build a clear word picture or vision of what your organization will become, embracing the important differences you have revealed. Describe the new resources you will draw upon; relationships that will be built; specific goods and services that will be provided. Show important, powerful, positive effects that will be delivered.
When differences arise, listen, clarify and show you understand. Emphasize what everyone has in common based on the values, mission and vision. Explore how differences can help the organization achieve success. Help individuals determine how to make their contribution effective.
Making differences work builds an organization better suited to meeting the important needs of a future that will be filled with greater and greater differences.