Reaping Benefits From Our Differences


Leadership. Drive. Achievement. Excellence. Today, organizations expect a lot from us – both as individuals and team members. The ability to work together to reach demanding goals becomes increasingly crucial to obtaining the desired results.

Thrive on Disagreement
Often, the best way to stimulate creative juices is by rubbing your mind against others’ to produce new and improved concepts and procedures. When people manage their differences well, the organization flourishes, not despite differences but because of them. In fact, negative reactions generally emerge from how we express and handle our personal diversity, not the variations themselves.

Only through sharing our differing opinions, beliefs, experiences and goals can any group of people exceed their individual boundaries. Organizations – boards, teams, whole companies – who create ways to make the most of their diversity share a variety of essential characteristics*, such as having common goals firmly in place; basing discussion on facts rather than opinion; developing a wide range of options instead of just a few alternatives, and ensuring everyone feels comfortable speaking up. Not least among the common elements is humour; teams that can lighten up and let off steam among the whole group are also able to disagree, respectfully.

Create Positive Outcomes
Each of us has the power to choose our response to people and circumstances. In fact, humans are the only beings on the planet able to separate stimulus from response and choose a reaction. We have the power to choose how we will engage, speak, listen, hear, interpret and respond. Our choices shape the outcome of our interactions and create an effect, either positive or negative.

At the most basic level, just the discovery of a different point of view can enable us to see something that had not occurred to us individually. Through sharing ideas openly, focused on what a person says – not his or her personality – we are able to generate fewer problems and greater benefits than any one of our preferences might have produced on its own.

Reap the Benefits
Understanding your own and others’ communication and conflict styles can help you to master this “creative abrasion” and produce benefits for your organization. For teams, this means increased capacity to manage differences productively; for the organization, it means greater creativity and innovation from the members’ enhanced abilities.

* How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight”; Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Jean L. Kahwajy, L.J. Bourgeois III; Harvard Business Review, July-Aug 1997.

Copyright(c) 2013 Carol J. Sutton Cert.ConRes.


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