I recently worked with the board of a not for profit organisation, servicing the health sector. The board was made up of 9 volunteers, all successful business people in their right. And each one of them had strong and different opinions on every topic on the agenda.
We all went home exhausted, but it was worth the extra effort. I had introduced them to the Whole Brain Model as a way of understanding and valuing the difference in the room. It had worked well. Teams. Coworkers. Couples. Families. They all represent differences that require this additional effort. Diversity is the norm nowadays, and it’s what makes life interesting. So often there is an element of surprise and irritation when, once again, we have to figure out what that other person is trying to do. The difference adds spice (just imagine what it would be like if everyone we lived and worked with saw the world exactly as we did), yet we still get frustrated and struggle.
Embracing and including diversity of all kinds has become an initiative in many organizations, and for good reason. There’s plenty of research supporting its role in increased profitability and sales revenue, customer acquisition and retention rates, innovation, problem-solving effectiveness, and more.
It makes sense: when two or more different elements come together, they create something new. One part hydrogen with two parts oxygen creates water. So we get it; it’s the right thing to do, and there is a payoff. But how do you overcome the inevitable frustration that comes with it?
Try these quick tips to help you get past the irritation and really get the value from your differences:
1. Put the differences on the table
Have a “how are we different” engagement using tools like assessments to understand where you have similarities and differences. They will surprise you less, and you will be better equipped to build off of them.
2. Take a task you share and allocate the items in the task to best suit your skills and preferences.
For example, if you’re planning an event, consider who is better at finance? Who is better organized and good with logistics? Who has more creative ideas? Who communicates better? Sometimes, you’ll discover that there’s a blind spot—something that neither of you is perfectly suited to. With my husband and me, it’s the detail orientation. We can both do it, but neither of us enjoys it, so we share the load on that one.
3. Mind your mindset with the difference factor
When you find yourself getting irritated, write down the difference factor you are reacting to. By writing it down, you are identifying it and sidestepping your emotional reaction, which often blinds our thinking. Difference adds value, but only when your mind sees the difference as additive not destructive. So seek out diversity. It will never be easy, but you can design and work toward making the inevitably bumpy road worth the ride.
Difference adds value, but only when your mind sees the difference as additive not destructive. So seek out diversity. It will never be easy, but you can design and work toward making the inevitably bumpy road worth the ride.