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Making A Difference With Differences

Posted Jan 26 2009 3:54pm

I've always been bothered by the seemingly well-intentioned books and workshops that fall under some variation of  "Managing Differences".

Have a look at the graphic and we'll continue. You  can click on it for a full-page view.

Managing Differences.001

Style vs. Substance

Style:

It would be safe to say that most "Differences" activities focus on issues of Style. These are attributes that we all see in each other and which become magnified when we try to work together in groups. It's a good idea to become aware of one's own inherent approach to these things and how others inherently go at them in a totally different way. I heartily endorse and, in my consulting business, practice that kind of understanding.

The Style issues reveal more about how you are. However, they're only the tip of the iceberg and that's not what sank the Titanic.

Substance:

These are the "Why" questions of life. They tell people who you are and what you believe and value, personally and professionally. It's the level of information needed to get past a surface relationship and into a real one.

Workplace rules and legislation exist to protect people from undue and ill-willed intrusion into some of these areas. At the same time, it's pretty tough to be "engaged" with other people if we don't know what they are really about. Taking time to find out hopes and expectations for teamwork; what each person values in interactions and task-performance; and some previous experiences that have led them to those concerns will go a long way toward deeper relational understanding without playing the "let's spill our guts on the meeting table" gambit. However, you might just find that each time you learn something more of significance about each other, the willingness to have even deeper relationships will increase.

Thank You For Your Service. We are Deporting You.

A number of years ago I accepted a 2-year consulting and training gig in the Middle East. It was suggested that we develop a "Time Management" program for the executives. This raised a flag for me since, culturally, the notion of "managing time" showed up nowhere in daily experiences, personal or professional; and, I don't believe in "Time Management." Time is finite and unchanging; one has to be clear about priorities and manage those.

If you are anywhere close to the training and development industry, you know that certain eras produce "must have" programs whose related buzzwords  go unquestioned. And so it was with Time Management. A program was developed and then advertised in the company curriculum newsletter. Which is when we showed up on the front page of the local newspaper with a headline that I won't fully repeat but which included the word Infidels (actually, a lot of companies would refer to their consultants that way) and other unflattering adjectives which had been attached to us by the Committee for the Preservation of Virtue and The Elimination of Vice.

Cut to the chase: Indeed, the notion of time management went much deeper than the typical "we move a bit more slowly in hot climates" type of thing. According to the Cleric who was the spokesperson, "managing" time was an affront to the god of their faith who was in control of all things related to time.

OK. We got it. No more Time Management. Instead, "Setting Priorities At Work" satisfied both parties' underlying beliefs. And we didn't have to pack up and head to the airport.

It wasn't a matter of Style, it was a matter of very deep Substance.

What needs to happen where you are to float your corporate iceberg a little higher in the water?

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