Opening Your Eyes to Diversity

The gap in producing insights the last three weeks is because I have been on my travels, and it made me wonder: do you ever make assumptions about things based on the culture you are from? Being back in India was a great reminder of the cultural things I had forgotten. Delayed from returning due to the pandemic it was great to travel around South India reconnecting with old friends and new, and helping informally to develop leaders in various projects. This time I had my eyes open for the cross-cultural situations we take for granted where being in a different culture challenges my everyday assumptions. Opening my eyes to the rich diversity in front of me. Such assumptions happen in teams too, so how can you be more aware and become more effective as a leader?

This photo was taken in a well-known clothes store in Kerala. They custom make saris and other clothing. The colours of the material are amazing. As I looked around it reminded me that when we talk about colour we forget how many shades of one colour there are. As leaders it can be easy to make the same assumptions about people.

We tend to put people in boxes. An observation would be that most of the time you are wide of the mark when doing this. Everyone is different in some way, the trick as a leader is to find out what are their motivations, hopes, desires and learn to hear their voice. In other words, to understand each other.

“It is understanding that gives us an ability to have peace. When we understand the other fellow’s viewpoint, and he understands ours, then we can sit down and work out our differences.” ~ Harry S. Truman

When you make what seems hidden visible (the unconscious) you can do something about it. You can’t change something you can’t see.

5 Ways You Can 10x Your Leadership

1. Know Yourself – when we point our finger at someone else there are four others coming back towards us. Leading well begins with you. It is not possible to lead yourself without knowing yourself and it is a lifelong process. In knowing yourself you will realise where you need to self-regulate and self-manage. Then you will become a more effective leader.

2. Recognise the strength in difference – as you lead recognise that others bring strengths you don’t have. You can wonder at times whether those you work with are from the same planet as you. Effective team is about how you work together to bring those differing strengths and mould them into something greater than the individuals on the team.

3. Get clarity on the problem you are looking to solve – issues will surface with team members from time to time. It is crucial to understand the problem you are trying to solve. Lack of clarity can lead to looking to fix something that isn’t at the root of your problem.

4. Ask powerful questions – making assumptions as a leader can potentially undermine your influence. To increase your effectiveness as a leader, ask questions. Questions can be used to better understand your colleagues, direct reports and those you report to.

5. Listen – finally listen. As leaders you may have a hundred things on your to do list. However, when those you lead are in front of you then you need to be present. You do this by listening, reflecting back what is said for clarification. Not thinking about the next thing you have to do. Those you are talking to know when you have left the room even if you are still standing there.

“What you do has far greater impact than what you say.” —Stephen Covey

Mark Billage

Mark Billage

Mark’s passion is to help realise individuals’ potential, be they leaders or team members, through empowering organisational culture. He has spent 7 years leading an organisation based in the non profit sector. In that time, he focused on creating a culture that enabled and empowered individuals, with the aim of seeing a high performing team better able to achieve the organisation’s mission.

Our Vision

To train and equip leaders to transform culture, build successful teams and organisations where everyone is seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution.

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