Everyday People - Recognizing Diversity

The lyrics to Sly Stone’s song still have relevance today as they did in 1968. Race relations and affirmative action important social and political issues then and now. Yet Sly Stone’s lyrics from the sixties were about a much broader concept. He sung about the dimensions of diversity. He sang about people of all different colors, shapes and sizes. He sang about people of different beliefs, different groups, different occupations, different social classes, different generations, and different races.

The primary dimensions of diversity are generally those that we have no control over and that are generally obvious to others. Colors, shape, size, age, and race, are some of the dimensions that can be found in the song. Secondary dimensions are those that we generally have control over and that are not necessarily obvious to others – our beliefs, our occupation, our social class, other groups, such as a rock ' n roll band that we may choose to join.

Diversity is about uniqueness. Diversity is what makes each and every one of us a unique individual. We each possess unique characteristics and qualities that we bring and contribute to the organization for which we work.

Diversity relates to people's values. Diversity also relates to an organizations values. Individuals want to work in an environment where others care about them and where they feel accepted and respected. Diversity is also about also cultural variables. Despite the fact that we live in a world that is global, the cultural variables that are part of each of our lives so often overlooked.

All of these differences are expansive. No wonder we have disagreements in the workplace. We need to understand differences. We can begin by understanding our own diversity and how we shape our own points of views and ideas – our own story. Understanding your own story prepares you to be open to different perspectives and ideas. Learn more about the other person so you have an opportunity to stand in their shoes. Engage in respectful curiosity. Look past differences, barriers and noise and give the other person the chance to be understood. Keep in mind that people have different communication styles. Some are direct while others share information in a roundabout way. As you engage in these conversations, remember to:

· Be authentic and find ways of communicating that allows yourself to be known and get to know others.
· Model behavior that includes respect for others, their opinions, interests, perceptions, values, experiences, and culture.
· Address differences and misunderstandings with a commitment to learning and resolving disagreements in a respectful and timely way.
· Communicate clearly, directly, and honestly.
· Encourage others to share their thoughts and experiences, and accept their frame of reference.

When we understand differences we can celebrate excellence and uniqueness. When we do this, we recognize that diversity has a place and affects all aspects of the organization – learning, resource allocation, product development and innovation, leadership integrity all of which affect the bottom line.

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