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Unlock the power of Difference


This is the transcript from the TrainingZONE online workshop held on 27 June 2000 on the subject of 'Unlocking the Power of Difference'
The workshop leader was Hazel D Lyth

hazel d. lyth: our objective is to consider the value of difference and how we can make it work for or against us in our lives work & relationshipwork and relationshio

Stephanie Phillips: can you explain what's meant by 'difference'?

hazel d. lyth: every individual is unique, a complex cocktail of preferences, perceptions, experience and expectations

Stephanie Phillips: thanks!

hazel d. lyth: from the time that we are born, everything that happens to us colours our vision of ourselves, others and the world in which we live

ALISON LONES: If you have the wrong mix of difference within an organistaion can it not cause great problems?

hazel d. lyth: this 'difference' may work to our advantage - but it may also hinder us in realising our own potential

Stephanie Phillips: is this to do with conformity?

hazel d. lyth: the straight answer to that is yes - but the laternative would be extremely boring

hazel d. lyth: difference and diversity are the lifeblood of business it is how we value it and harness it that matters

hazel d. lyth: hi Caroline, welcome to the workshop

Tim Pickles: Hazel, are you seeing 'difference' as primarily an individual issue or an organisational one? I'm wondering how it relates to the emergence of 'diversity management' for example.

Carolyn Tabak: thanks.

marie Chambers: I know the feel ing there - I have gone on courses, did exceptionally well on my teaching course but you give me a large group of people and I just go to bits so even though I know my stuff I just lack in confidence so i'm not using my full potential

hazel d. lyth: I see difference from both perspectives in organisations it is what creates distinctive competence and USP

Stephanie Phillips: there's more to it than tolerance and encouraging others, though, or are those the key things?

hazel d. lyth: but many individuals find that their own difference, what they can bring to an organisation is hampered by tradition culture and convention

hazel d. lyth: Hi Bob welcome to the workshop

Bob Rice: Glad to be here

Carolyn Tabak: i agree with what you say about company culture. It seems a major issue in the UK - the "control culture"

ALISON LONES: How do youmbreak down the cultures to allow your difference freedom?

marie Chambers: got cut off then

hazel d. lyth: first we have to recognise that difference is our most valuable resource and then work to find strategies

Stephanie Phillips: what might they be?

hazel d. lyth: which harness it and make it work for us

Carolyn Tabak: I've been doing some interesting reading around Chaos theory and the notion that a system like a company will grow organically if you only let employees develop their creativity and then let go of control . this means that relationships within the company have to be nurtured above and beyond any other thing

hazel d. lyth: unfortunately many business organisations sustain a popular culture of 'we know best' and many individuals at lower levels are

hazel d. lyth: ignored or uninvolved

Carolyn Tabak: and ignoring them is half, if not all of the problem, because they are the ones producing

hazel d. lyth: chaos the law of cause and effect should be taken into account when we talk about difference

hazel d. lyth: but what often happens is that we look for the difference that we wnat to create , without considering that

hazel d. lyth: it will automatically breed other difference

Stephanie Phillips: Carolyn - sounds interesting, have you come across any case studies of companies which have taken this on board?

ALISON LONES: Carolyn - I have experienced this within my own organistaion, but it has now created a divide between the departments where it has and hasn't occurred, any ideas?

Carolyn Tabak: It sounds like communication between departments would be an area to focus on?

Bob Rice: One of the more unsettling things I find in working with organizational cultures is the victim position that many employees take. Rather than finding ways to blend their differences into the organization., they use cultural pressures as a reason to give up or give in. What are your thoughts?

hazel d. lyth: we have developed a whole range of 360 degree profiling tools which measure natural preferences and audit how they manifest themselves as behaviours

hazel d. lyth: this common vocabulary helps individuals and teams recognise where they differ and unpick the issues which prevent us working effectively together

Tim Pickles: Carolyn - I'm interested in your links to chaos theory too. Together with a colleague, Penny Sharland, we've been exploring the notion of the 'unconscious' life of organisations - and how powerful it is in determining what actually happens, frequently over-riding the 'conscious' planning. Email me if you want the references and contact details.

hazel d. lyth: Bob many individuals literally do feel the pressure of being unable to be different, not everyone shouts their good ideas, or are allowed to

hazel d. lyth: organisations must take some responsibility for inhibiting this process

Carolyn Tabak: Tim, yes it seems that no matter what the management set out to achieve, something else happens that takes on a life of its own. It seems to me that some of this is to do with not recognising the potential for real involvement of most employees

Tim Pickles: It seems to me that individuals experience loads of implicit barriers to being different; there is an expectation of conformity - so people repress themselves in order not to stand out. Is this around fear, or is it some desire for approval by peers?

Carolyn Tabak: Organisations do have an unconscious life, purely because individuals do. on a larger level like an organisation, it is going to be more powerful too

Stephanie Phillips: If you think about it, this probably starts at school - most children want to 'fit in' with their peers

Bob Rice: Stephanie, it is not just a "school thing." The desire to fit in is a natural human tendency.

Carolyn Tabak: I don't think it's just about peer approval, but also fear of punishment if you do standa out

Stephanie Phillips: therefore it's not going to be easy to encourage people to 'be themselves' more if they've spent a long time conforming

Bob Rice: Adults generally want to fit in as much as kids.

Stephanie Phillips: Bob - I agree, just following my train of thought along!

hazel d. lyth: Stephanie - we have been doing some vry interesting work with children and teachers to help them recognise their their own difference it seems that they feel compelled to conform in order to be acceptabl;e

hazel d. lyth: some of these issues are around the ground rules and processes through which difference can be expressed without being perceived to challenge authority and status

Carolyn Tabak: They are also abouut managing the tension between individuality and acceptance by the group

hazel d. lyth: Bob what is your expereince of people fitting in

Stephanie Phillips: Hazel - presumably introducing a few changes at a time can help build people's confidence in this sort of culture change?

Bob Rice: Hazel, much of this discussion is around the organizational culture. Something as big as the organziation may seem overwhelming to change. It seems that individual managers have the power to affect the local culture in ways that allow employees freedom without needing to alter the broader culture of the organization. Is this perhaps a productive avenue to channel change efforts for taking advantage of differences?

Bob Rice: Hazel, when it comes to fitting in, I generally find that individual managers have more influence over the experience of employees than any other level of the organization.

hazel d. lyth: Stephanie - managing the creeps and jerks of cultural evolution is difficult however if we are able to engender willingness to change it makes things easier

hazel d. lyth: evolving culture is like eating an elephant we have to do it bit by bit and not get tired of the same menu

hazel d. lyth: managers invariably underestimate how much their behaviours influence culture and behaviours, yet for the most part they creeate

hazel d. lyth: the environment in which people work and the traditions and conventions are hard to break down

hazel d. lyth: if we consider the effect that the last decade has had on management behaviours

Bob Rice: How true, Hazel. The proof of that I think is found in the rapid cultural changes that do occur locally when individual managers make the effort to change themselves.

hazel d. lyth: we can see how managers have poilced organisational strategies, tightened budgets, etc

hazel d. lyth: this has helped many organisations ride worlwide recesiion however these behaviours will not unlock the natural creatiity

hazel d. lyth: or enable individuals and teams to feel 'safe' enough to behave differently

Bob Rice: Hazel, I think what you described is the difference between what are sometimes referred to as the business and human sides of management. So much concentration today on the business side.

hazel d. lyth: if we are to enable individuals to willingly release their unique talents and qualities into the community pot, we need to develop more leadership than management

Stephanie Phillips: Hazel - any suggestions for small changes people can make to start working towards a change?

hazel d. lyth: most organisations are geared to achieving tasks and have very little in the way of people infrastructure

hazel d. lyth: Stephanie

hazel d. lyth: first think about yourself and what is ifferent about you

hazel d. lyth: Hi Russel, we are discussing difference here

hazel d. lyth: then think about the people with whom you work and ask yourself what is different about them

russell holt: Hi. I'll read the transcript then observe

hazel d. lyth: try to look at peole objectively and see past the smoke and mirrors

hazel d. lyth: to who lives beneath

hazel d. lyth: hi Manuela

hazel d. lyth: we are naturally programmed to value similarity and reject difference and this gets in the way of building collaborative working partnership

Stephanie Phillips: Okay.....I can try that - there should be more to it though?

hazel d. lyth: when we value each individual for what they bing to the party and recognise this diversity as a rich and valuable resource

hazel d. lyth: there is more to it - there has to be a common denominator, common language and shard vocabulary

hazel d. lyth: and a willingness to change

Stephanie Phillips: Does anyone want to add anything to this?

hazel d. lyth: think about power and powerlessness, which underpins change and links many of the

hazel d. lyth: comments we have made in this discusssion

hazel d. lyth: when we have a sense of our own value, we feel more powerful

Stephanie Phillips: Hazel - we're coming to the end of the 45 minutes, do you want to summarise what we've covered?

hazel d. lyth: thanks

hazel d. lyth: every individual is unique and by recognising this as a valuable resource we can bring about beneficial change

hazel d. lyth: if anyone would like to find out more aout themselves and others we will be pleased to provide more informatin

hazel d. lyth: in the meantime, thanks for the contributions - see differnces positively and it will work for, not against us.

Bob Rice: I get a sense that much of what you describe here, Hazel, relies on a certain amount of assertiveness on the part of individuals. Since the organization's culture isn't likely to adapt to us, we must take some initiative to reveal and use our strengths and those of others. What are your suggestions for drawing out that kind of assetiveness in those around us?

hazel d. lyth: provide a framework in which this might happen

hazel d. lyth: contract ground rules and behaviours between individuals

hazel d. lyth: facililitate an environment in which the less assertive can bring their points of view forward

hazel d. lyth: many who have good ideas and suggestions will not shout them

George Reavis: Thanks Hazel, very informative - have a great day all

Stephanie Phillips: Thanks Hazel, thanks all for coming. You can find out Hazel's e-mail address by clicking on her name in the right hand part of the screen.

hazel d. lyth: thought for the day - we can complain because a rose has thorns or rejoice because a thorn has roses, it's up to us

All TrainingZONE workshops are entirely free to participants. Join in at at the time shown above.


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