Character Creates Opportunity® – Differences: Thursday, July 31, 2014

Our communities, our workplaces, and our homes continue to grow more complex and diverse.  There is a growing demand for more education and training to ensure we can better understand differences, learn to fully appreciate differences, and then begin to leverage those differences to move in a positive direction toward our objectives.

Over the last 20+ years, we have all witnessed the increased attention on and the “managerial assessment” of our ability to understand, appreciate, and leverage differences to make our schools and communities better and our businesses more competitive.  As our businesses and our marketplaces become more diverse, there has emerged a critical skill set of leaders; Leaders need to be able to recruit and develop diverse teams, create an environment where differences are valued and efficiently assessed, and then take action on those differences to deliver a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  These efforts have helped to make businesses more effective in the global marketplace.

What stands in stark contrast to our efforts in our schools, communities, and businesses to understand, appreciate, and leverage differences to deliver better outcomes, is our limited effort to do the same in our homes.  Our unwillingness to make a real effort to try and understand, appreciate, and then leverage our differences within the home is at the root of some of the most painful and heartbreaking family conflicts.

There is a great deal of information and practical experience that demonstrates we are so willing to work hard in areas outside the home to appreciate the differences of others, but in the home, the data on family conflict would show we are unwilling to make the same effort to understand the differences around our dinner tables. We are often quick to dismiss or trivialize, or in some cases become intolerant of, the very basic differences within our homes.  Some of the differences that form the foundation of family conflict are leveraged to build stronger teams in the workplace:

1)      Communication styles: Expressive vs. introverts, talkers vs. listeners

2)      Work strengths: Time and attention to detail vs. productivity to get things done

3)      Process: The methodical planner vs. the spontaneous decision maker

4)      Schedules: The night owl vs. the early riser

5)      Personalities: The “rebel” vs. the one that “falls in line”

6)      Generational mindset:  Old school vs. new school

7)      Individuality: The tattooed vs. the non-tattooed  (well, I am not sure that one fits yet)

Incompatibility or “irreconcilable differences” is the reason given for most family break-ups. Family conflict at the table This reason goes beyond marriages.  Incompatibility is at the root of parent-child conflict, in-law struggles, and the “exiled” cousin or uncle who disappears from the family radar screen.  Quite often, the genesis of our struggles in families is the devaluing or resentment of our differences instead of embracing and treasuring our differences to build something bigger and better than ourselves.  We would not tolerate a point of view in the workplace that says “we don’t like people to be different.”  However, in our homes, we are so quick and willing to enable differences to divide and break-up our family without first putting forth the effort to better understand those differences and hopefully, try and appreciate those differences to keep the family circle intact.

As we work hard to better understand, more deeply appreciate, and begin leveraging differences in our home and our workplace, we will build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® for us to build strong businesses and strong families.