25 Jul 2022

Tolerating One Another vs. Cultivating Genuine Relationships

By Kim Ellet, Certified Professional Coach

Many organizations are talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Efforts often focus on moving people to a place of tolerating others rather than embracing or cultivating genuine relationships. The real magic happens when everyone is welcomed to the table to create a new organizational culture – together!

Recently I heard a comment like, “I hired a (fill in the ethnic group) customer service representative,” or “a (fill in the marginalized community) accounts payable person when I mentioned my work and passion for inclusion, engagement, and well-represented communities. Recognizing opportunities to diversify work groups is important but not just as a check-the-box activity. 

To make changes that count, that make a difference for employees and employers, as well as in communities, here are some suggestions for creating real relationships:

Take the time to learn about each other – be curious

In business, it’s easy to talk about work related topics but how much does that really allow us to get to know each other as people? Be willing to ask questions, and LISTEN without defensiveness or judgment. How do your colleagues spend their time when they are not at work? Do they have a favorite sports team; what holidays are the most important in their family? Are they interested in service projects or spending time on hobbies? As with any relationship, it takes time to develop a genuine connection. When we learn more about each other, it can help each of us understand each other’s perspectives and why we work the way we do.

Do your own research

Attend music festivals, theaters, museums, watch movies, and read about experiences that are different from what you grew up learning. Again, be curious. There is a new theater in the town where I live that presents urban productions with diverse music and casts. I recently attended a show that focused on the 90s Hip Hop scene. The cast and music were terrific, and not only did I really enjoy it, but I also learned more about that genre and timeframe.  

Expand your perspectives before you get into trouble

There are lots of “do-good” reasons to embrace diversity and inclusion, but the bottom-line business reasons are not to be overlooked either. With education and sensitivity awareness, embarrassing and potentially costly issues can be avoided. There was a news story in my area a few weeks ago where the school district was putting out a new logo for an elementary school update. The selected image was met with much dismay and outcry as the community noted the similarity between the new eagle logo and the Nazi eagle. The school district ended up changing the logo after much public outrage and a meeting between a local Rabbi and the school system.  The superintendent explained that “we didn’t know.” This illustrates an opportunity for creating departments of staff and volunteers representing diverse perspectives for planning and initiatives. Business leaders will benefit from engaging well-represented perspectives and being open to new ways to expand their market and attract and retain valuable employees.

Get involved and involve others

Look for ways to build relationships by getting involved. Whether it’s a committee at work or a community organization for the arts, sports, or philanthropy, look for ways to engage with others from diverse groups. Not only can each of us volunteer to serve, but we can also invite others to join in as well. In networking training, the lesson is to look for those in the room who are on the periphery and invite them to engage or join your group. It’s the same idea for the new kid in school or someone who would like to be included but doesn’t know where to start. Be the person who jumps in with both feet – and invite others to join in as well.

These are a few ideas for building relationships with genuine connections to impact individuals, companies, and communities. I encourage you to be creative and get out of your comfort zone to make a difference for yourself and others. 

My dream and my work are for improved cohesion, collaboration, and connection within companies, organizations, and communities. Reach out to me for more information on bringing your team together for effective communication and facilitated safe conversations.  KEllet@thegrowthcoach.com

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