The challenge of failure

“We learn to…color the inside of the square by scribbling outside the box…we either learn to fail or we fail to learn.” p. xvi

For this second post on Tal Ben-Shahar’s book The Pursuit of Perfect I want to continue the discussion about the uncomfortable topic of failure. What makes talking about failure challenging? I would argue it is because we frequently see failure as something that is personal, permanent and pervasive. When we make failure about the person, we lose our ability to see the impact of the situation or context. When we make failure a permanent state, we neglect to make room for change and growth. When we make failure pervasive, we generalize from a single instance and conclude that the whole is without value. When we see our failures as about us as people, as something we cannot change and something that will seep into every other aspect of our lives, the result is typically paralysis and fear.

“ [A]voiding failure…invests it with much more power than it deserves, the pain associated with the fear of failure is usually more intense than the pain following an actual failure.” p. 21

What can we do to change our relationship with failure?

“Active acceptance is about recognizing things are they are and then choosing the course of action we deem appropriate and worthy of ourselves. It is about recognizing that at every moment in our life we have a choice—to be afraid and yet to act courageously, to feel jealous and yet act benevolently, to accept being human and act with humanity.” p. 57

We can acknowledge that we cannot control the world, only our own behavior. That is, without losing our sense of accountability, we can move to a more realistic position in which our role and the situational constraints are both part of the equation. We can shake off the all-or-none mindset that tells us that one failure means failing forever more and recognize that we live in the now and can make new choices at any point. Moreover, we can court a more flexible attitude to those things that we cannot change and see them as givens with which we need to work rather than limitations that prevent us from taking any action at all.

“We need to accept that we sometimes do not and cannot know. We need to embrace uncertainty in order to feel more comfortable in its presence. Then, once we feel comfortable with our ignorance, we are better prepared to reconstruct our discomfort with the unknown into a sense of awe and wonder. It is about relearning to perceive the world—and our lives—as a miracle unfolding.” p. 222

Let’s get to that scribbling, grateful for all the awe and wonder this world has to offer.


Tal Ben-Shahar. (2009). The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. New York: McGraw Hill. Or the 2010 paperback Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The challenge of failure

You can choose your world

Imagine a world where positive feedback was considered entertainment at best and meaningless at worst. In this world, your job as a leader is to privilege particular ways of being (hopefully consistent with your own ways) and do the best you can to create regulations and enforce norms that promote these, and only these, approaches. If the best approach has already been found, you make people conform to this. If it is still being sought, you seek to ensure that no one is satisfied with what they are currently doing. You seek out any and all methods that allow you to compare people to an ideal standard and show them where they fall short. In this world, even perfection might not be good enough.

Do this world sound out of balance? Do you get the impression that a lot of energy is being wasted waiting for some idyllic future where all problems will be solved (or some exceedingly gloomy one where it will all cease to matter)? Do you think people are doing their best work or is more time spent trying to cover up what’s going wrong?

Now imagine a world in which there is no scarcity of good ways to be and as a leader it is your privilege to acknowledge where people are flourishing. You look to the past to find out what is already working so that you can build on this success. At the same time, you are open to new possibilities and committed to remaining flexible should the demands of your situation change. Your job is to reward effort and integrity and to make sure that unrealized potential has a chance to surface and grow. Instead of comparison, you practice compassion because the hardest ideal to live up to is simply to show up and be authentically yourself. In this world, good is truly enough.

How often do you find yourself operating as though you lived in the first of these worlds, the one where scarcity and perfectionism are driving forces? How does this mode feel? Don’t stop at your thoughts, attend to your physical and emotional reactions as well. If you can recognize the signs — for example, a sense of unease, heaviness or tension in your body; shame, guilt and fear; unhelpful ruminations about unlikely catastrophic outcomes — you can take an intentional step into the second world, the one where abundance and diversity are the driving forces. All of the energy you’ve been devoting to force the world to look the one single way you see as perfect can instead be devoted to opening yourself up to curiosity about all the other options that might be possible if you only took a moment to accept and appreciate the beautiful, imperfect state that is reality. This freedom to choose your world is the diversity dividend.


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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You can choose your world

There’s no single road to the top

One of the roadblocks to doing diversity work that I set out to explore with The Diversity Dividend is the limiting assumption of perfectionism and its companion all-or-none mindset. As part of this exploration, the book I want to showcase next in the Inspiration Shout-Outs series is The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar.

The myth this book helps to explode is that the pursuit of perfection helps us to achieve success. In fact, perfectionism may take us away from success because it blinds us to possible options, discourages us from testing our limits and taking risks and condemns us to the belief that anything less than perfect is equivalent to failure.

“Like most people, the Perfectionist says that she wants to learn from others. But she is unwilling to pay the price of learning—admitting a shortcoming, flaw, or mistake—because her primary concern is actually to prove that she is right.”
p. 13

Furthermore, perfectionism stresses the belief that there is only one right way to success and this can trap those not on that way into hiding this fact, and their purported failures, from others.

“[In most organizations] looking good is often a stronger motivation than being good (by owning up to and learning from one’s failures).”
p. 138

Finally, when we strive to be perfect, we may give up before the job is done, perhaps even within steps from our goal, because of the fear of failure perfectionism instills.

“Failure is essential in achieving success—though it is of course not sufficient for achieving success. In other words, while failure does not guarantee success, the absence of failure will almost always guarantee the absence of success.”
p. 29

Befriend failure; make it one of your tools for success. Think of the diverse paths you would be free to follow if there were many right ways to the top.

Tal Ben-Shahar. (2009). The Pursuit of Perfect: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life. New York: McGraw Hill. Or the 2010 paperback Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

There’s no single road to the top

The rank scent of ranking

If we want to measure diversity how do we go about it? Typically we identify a set of categories and then sort people, objects, characteristics, situations, etc. into these categories (I’ll leave the issue of how challenging it is to discover useful categories for a future post). It’s a bit like botany or zoology where someone is trying to identify the species to which a plant or animal belongs. This sort of measurement is referred as nominal measurement because you are sorting whatever is being measured into named groups. Names, however, are a bit cumbersome, particularly if we are collecting and sorting a large number of things, and thus we usually assign each of our categories a number. If there are two categories, for example, then perhaps we assign 0 to one of them and 1 to the other. We could, of course, have chosen the opposite assignment, 1 and 0, because the numbers are simply a handy shorthand for our categories and carry no meaning in and of themselves.

This convenience is not without its price, though, as what numbers like 0 and 1 imply for most people is at least an ordinal level of measurement. That is, introducing numbers makes people think in terms of an ordering or ranking of the categories, and, therefore, of the things being classified. And just as 1 is greater than 0, assigning the number 1 to a category suggests that it is better or of greater value than the category which was assigned the number 0. Thus these numbers, utilized only to make data gathering and record keeping simpler, may very well induce the “either/or“ thinking associated with the “if I’m right, you must be wrong” scarcity mentality we are hoping to discourage with our diversity work. The ease with which we slip into 1-0 hierarchical thinking rather than 1-1 egalitarian thinking means that while the intention behind gathering diversity data may be to highlight the variety of equally valuable ways of being that exist, through our use of numbers we may instead be perpetuating the status quo of one-up, one-down inequality.

If we take seriously the analogy with botany and zoology, however, perhaps we can begin to disconnect from the desire to make some of our categories more worthy of respect than the others and begin to see them as unordered labels that signal specialization for different environments. Just like the different beak types Darwin identified among the finch species of the Galapagos, most of our personal characteristics can’t be said to be better or worse in the absence of information about the context in which they are being used. And like plant types, character doesn’t typically have a simple scoring system. Thus let’s avoid the artificial competition of 0-1 hierarchical thinking and strive for 1-1 egalitarian thinking where we focus our energies on creating diverse groups and teams: Being our diverse selves allows us to exploit the environments in which we find ourselves and helps us be best placed to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that make up modern life. This is the diversity dividend.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The rank scent of ranking

Do you seek to demonstrate or develop diversity?

In Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us, Dan Pink has adopted and adapted Carol Dweck’s terminology – her fixed and growth mindsets – to talk about motivation. As I interpret his work, the fixed mindset (or the entity theorist in his terms) compels us to action through external motivators, whereas the growth mindset (or the incremental theorist in his terms) engages our desire to act through internal motivators.

“Equally important, engagement as a route to mastery is a powerful force in our personal lives. While complying can be an effective strategy for physical survival, it’s a lousy one for personal fulfillment. Living a satisfying life requires more than simply meeting the demands of those in control. Yet in our offices and our classrooms we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement. The former might get you through the day, but only the latter will get you through the night.”

p. 112


“ To analogize to physical qualities, incremental theorists consider intelligence as something like strength. (Want to get stronger and more muscular? Start pumping iron.) Entity theorists view it as something more like height. (Want to get taller? You’re out of luck.) If you believe intelligence is a fixed quantity, then every educational experience becomes a measure of how much you have. If you believe intelligence is something you can increase, then the same encounters become opportunities for growth. In one view, intelligence is something you demonstrate; in the other it’s something you develop.

p. 121

As I read the passages quoted above, I was prompted to think about how these ideas could be applied to motivating people within the diversity context.

When you operate from a fixed mindset (entity theorists), your goals for diversity work are about demonstrating the existence of diversity. Diversity is something you have or you don’t. To demonstrate it, you create mountains of statistics, you tick off the boxes into which individuals fall and you feel you are doing well when you measure what you’ve got and the total score is a high one.

When you operate from a growth mindset (incremental theorists), your goals for diversity work are about developing the diversity that exists and finding new areas in which you and your team can grow – both by adding new members and by making the most of what is already present. Diversity has always been there and now that you recognize it, you can work to strengthen what you have. You feel you are doing well when you can see an increase in the ways in which you and others identify yourselves and in the ways all of you seek to be identified.

How is your mindset affecting the way you think about and work with diversity?

  1. Do you tend to see identity as something that is flexible or something that is fixed?
  2. Do you find yourself claiming the power to self-identify or do you feel forced live with the identities others grant or impose on you?
  3. Is diversity an ongoing journey of discovery or simply an endpoint to be reached and filed away?

Your emphasis on either the demonstration or the development of diversity has knock-on consequences: When you demonstrate diversity, typically it is a one-time thing; when you develop diversity, typically it is a continuing process. Take a look at where you fall on this continuum in the various domains of your life, and, if you find yourself on the “demonstrate performance” end of the spectrum in one or more areas, consider the follow-up question of how effectively is this mindset “getting you through the night.”


Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. NY: Riverhead.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Do you seek to demonstrate or develop diversity?

Guest Post — Anne Smith

In a First, Engineers choose from 2 Women for President-Elect
Everyone has a stereotype for the typical engineer, and from 1852 to 2004, the American Society of Professional Engineers (ASCE) membership dutifully elected an older experienced male, “a gray hair,” to be their president. Finally, in 2004 and twice since, a female candidate has been elected over a male candidate by a majority male membership, breaking the 150 year old glass ceiling. Twelve years later, in another first, ASCE will choose from two women for President–Elect.

As an ASCE member, what I find so interesting is that this year “Gender” in itself is no longer a major reason to sway the vote. Not that gender won’t play a role, but it will be one of many influences in this campaign. For these candidates to appeal to their ASCE membership of 145,000, with a wide diversity of cultures, generations and experience, there are many bases they have to cover:

Demonstrating Experience – To be nominated both candidates had to meet a certain education, experience and ASCE leadership bar in the profession. However candidates also have to meet member expectations from different generations ranging from “have they earned it, gone through all the steps and done their time” to “are they progressive, flexible, showing initiative.”

Regional Support – This national organization is divided into 9 US regions, from Hawaii and Alaska on the west all the way to Florida and Maine in the east, and each candidate will be looking for regional support. They will each have a home region that will probably want their home candidate to win but to campaign to the rest of the diverse regions requires highly leveraging their professional and social networks.

Networking – Because of the diversity of age in the organization, networking or accessing the membership has to be multi-faceted. The older members tend to be more accessible through face-to-face contacts, professional meetings and email, whereas the younger members are sometimes only accessible through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn or the social ASCE activities. The sheer numbers of members that need to be reached leads to a reliance on support of personal networks to advocate for the candidates.

Personality/Leadership Style – The candidates didn’t get where they are now by being wallflowers so they are leaders and have convinced a lot of people they can do the job. We all know from political campaigns how much personality and style can affect a potential vote for a candidate. Their own personality style and relationships will directly influence how many in their networks will jump on board to advocate for them nationally. Although there is greater personality style diversity than most people assume in engineering populations, personality style tests of several hundred engineers show that the membership is more likely to be introverted than extraverted, more likely to be detail oriented than big-picture or vision oriented, much more likely to make their decisions based on facts and logic than personal values, and more likely to be focused on structure and organization than process and flexibility. Candidates however have the challenging task of meeting the majority of members’ type needs for their buy-in and vote.

Gender and Diversity – The cultural and gender diversity is rapidly increasing especially in the membership and leadership of student and younger professional groups. In their vision statements, the candidates address elevating the engineering profession globally and improving the quality of life for members and community. They will also need to relate to many different constituencies in those groups to get their votes. So when will there be a minority woman candidate and who will be the other candidate? A minority man or woman? How will the campaign strategies differ? I see a number of candidates on the fast track now and others who probably could have been candidates in a different era! For now, let’s celebrate “The times, they are a changing” – Bob Dylan

Anne Smith, P.E.
President, Smith Culp Consulting
Engineer and Facilitator who loves to analyze the numbers and the people!

Guest Post — Anne Smith

Telling our whole stories

“[C]onsider the notion of empowerment. It presumes that the organization has the power and benevolently ladles some of it into the waiting bowls of grateful employees.” p. 91

In this quote Dan Pink was describing one of the faulty assumption he sees arising from the use of extrinsic motivational strategies. As I re-read it for this week’s post, though, it struck me that he could also have been talking about identity. A society or a culture is often the arbiter of what labels are available for us to use to define ourselves. Thus rather than growing into our souls, we wait with our bowls outstretched, yearning to hear what aspects of ourselves we can claim and likewise which are not acceptable.

In the organizational case, the prevailing wisdom Pink is challenging is that the individual requires something or someone external to sanction his or her power. In the case of diversity work, a critical misconception we are seeking to overturn is that only the powerful and the privileged have the right to define the options for naming and framing one’s identity. Complying with these externally mandated conventions when defining yourself usually comes at a cost: a cost to self-esteem because it presumes an outsider has the right to be making decisions about your worthiness, and a cost to self-understanding because when we use only the labels approved by others, we must often hide or deny a part of who we are.

With these thoughts and Pink’s quote in mind, consider the following questions:

  • Where have you given away your power to define yourself?
  • What stories about who you are do you struggle to tell due to a dearth of appropriate language?
  • Where is the currently acceptable terminology marginalizing key parts of your identity while perhaps empowering other aspects that you see as only incidental?

Your whole story deserves to be told and thus diversity work needs to include striving to create environments where intrinsic sources of power and motivation are brought to the fore. In such environments, the only permission you need to be yourself is from yourself. When you can embrace who you are and use that definition to build self-esteem, self-compassion and self-respect, you are able tap into your deepest sources of power — self-awareness and self-trust.


Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. NY: Riverhead.


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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Telling our whole stories

Diversity Management – Udo Glücks

GUEST POST from Udo Glücks.

All infelicities and inaccuracies in the translation into English below are solely my responsibility. -Katherine

Diversity Management – Erfolgreiche Unternehmenskultur mit Herz und Verstand
den Menschen im Blick

– Wandel und Wachstum durch Vielfalt

Wo genau beginnt erfolgreiches Diversity Management?
Die Erfahrungen aus der Führungspraxis haben gezeigt: Das Management der Vielfalt beginnt bei der Top-Führungskraft im Top-Level Management. Noch spezifischer: Bei der persönlichen Einstellung und der jeweiligen Haltung der Entscheider – und der einzelnen Mitarbeiter.

Führungskräfte sind immer und auf jede Weise Vorbilder für ihre Mitarbeiter. Durch Ihr Vorbild prägen sie die Unternehmenskultur in entscheidendem Maße. Gerade heute bedeutet es eine große Herausforderung, Führungskraft zu sein, denn die Anforderungen an Rolle und Aufgabe haben sich geändert: Es reicht nicht mehr aus, in seinem fachlichen Gebiet “mehr zu können” als andere. In der heutigen Ära der Führungskultur sind menschliche, emotionale Kompetenz, sowie pädagogisches und psychologisches Know-how zu Gesprächs- und Beziehungsgestaltung und Menschenführung ebenso bedeutsam.

Neben der strategischen und operativen Führung und der Gestaltung von Veränderungen, haben verantwortungsbewusste Manager die Mitarbeiter als Menschen im Blick. Sie sehen auch das Zwischenmenschliche als Ihre Chefsache an und überlassen diesen Bereich nicht (nur) Ihrer Personalabteilung. Sie unterstützen vielmehr ihr Personalmanagement durch Ihr persönliches Vorbild z.B. aktiv dabei:

  • personelle Vielfalt zu fördern und zu nutzen
  • die unterschiedlichen Potentiale und Talente zu erkennen und zu entwickeln auch Querdenker ins Team zu holen
  • heterogene Teams zu bilden
  • Mitarbeiter nach ihren Stärken und Fähigkeiten auszuwählen und einzusetzen offene Hierarchien vorzuleben und einzuführen
  • offenes Feedback zu praktizieren
  • eine Führungskultur auf Augenhöhe zu verwirklichen
  • dauerhafte Über- und Unterforderung mit gesundheitlichen Beeinträchtigungen bis hin zum Burnout zu vermeide

Die Zeiten von Befehl und Ausführung sind vorbei
Die erfolgreiche Führungskultur von heute ist von Vertrauen und Partnerschaft geprägt und geschieht auf Augenhöhe. Es geht dabei vor allem um:

  • das Fördern heterogener Teamarbeit und deren intelligente Nutzung
  • eine offene Feedback -und Diskussionskultur, in der Kritik und Anregungen von Mitarbeitern willkommen sind
  • eine wertschätzende Haltung und Kommunikation auf Augenhöhe
  • gemeinsames, lebenslanges Lernen

Schnell geraten Führungskräfte durch diese innovative Art der Führung aber auch an die persönlichen Grenzen ihrer vorhandenen Kompetenz und ihrer persönlichen Motivation. Führungskräfte sollten sich daher erlauben, diese ihre Möglichkeiten und Grenzen sehr genau anzusehen um dann in einem zweiten Schritt, ihre Einstellung zu überprüfen und ihre Führungskompetenzen weiter auszubauen.

Nachhaltige Veränderungen beginnen bekanntlich mit dem ersten Schritt – und mit den Personen, die diesen Schritt tun. Es bewegt sich schon sehr viel, wenn dieser erste Schritt im Top-Management gegangen wird. Eine innovative und charismatische Führungspersönlichkeit ist für diesen persönlichen, oftmals sehr herausfordernden Entwicklungsprozess, auf einen kompetenten Feedbackgeber und Sparringspartner an seiner Seite angewiesen.

Wertschöpfung durch Diversity Management
Mischwälder sind gesünder und lebendiger – eine Diversity Management-Kultur auch. Eine gesunde Unternehmenskultur auf der Basis von Vielfalt möchte ich vergleichen mit einem starken, natürlichen und lebendigen Mischwald. Dieser ist widerstandfähiger und wertvoller als ein homogener, nur zu rein wirtschaftlichem Nutzen hochgezüchteter Wald. In Deutschland kennen wir leider auch solche Fichten- und Kiefernwälder, die eng und homogen gepflanzt wurden (besonders aus Zeiten der DDR-Planwirtschaft). Diese homogenen Pflanzungen verhalten sich nun, in die Jahre gekommen, wie Streichholzwälder, die bei Sturm schnell einknicken und sehr anfällig für Krankheiten sind.

Heute haben die Verantwortlichen wieder damit begonnen, heterogener, vielfältiger zu pflanzen. Mit gutem Erfolg! Der Wald wird stabiler, langlebiger und gesunder. Willst Du ein starkes, lebendiges Unternehmen, dann pflanze es mit vielfältigen, unterschiedlichen, Individuen. Dazu gehört dann auch der wertschätzende, respektvolle Umgang mit jeder einzelnen Person. Hierbei geht es zuerst immer um die eigene persönliche Einstellung und Haltung gegenüber unterschiedlichen Menschen und deren unterschiedlichen Beliefs.

Im Umgang mit Individuen genügt nur das individuelle Verstehen.” C. G. Jung

Teamentwicklung beeinflusst den Finanzerfolg
Eine Metaanalyse hat ergeben: Von allen Veränderungsstrategien beeinflusst Teamentwicklung den Finanzerfolg am stärksten. “Teams mit Menschen, die sich in ihren Kenntnissen, Fähigkeiten, Sicht- und Herangehensweisen unterscheiden, können komplexe Probleme besser lösen als homogene Gruppen, die oftmals zu kollektiven Scheuklappen neigen.”, schreibt Peter Kinne, Dozent an der FOM-Hochschule für Ökonomie und Management und Geschäftsführer von Balancefirst Management Services.

Diversity Management nicht von oben verordnen
Man sollte Diversity Management nicht von oben einführen und verwirklichen wollen, um einem Trend zu folgen und in zu sein. Man sollte D.M. auch nicht verwirklichen wollen, ohne zuvor die dafür nötigen Strukturen zu schaffen und eine gemeinsame Vision und Mission zu entwickeln. Diversity Management muss man wirklich und aus Überzeugung wollen. Der Prozess des D.M. ist sicherlich mit viel Aufwand und hohem persönlichen Einsatz verbunden. Der Aufwand aber lohnt sich!

Motivation, Vision und die konkreten Veränderungsziele sollten dabei nicht zuerst im Kopf, sondern im Herzen der Entscheider geboren und verankert sein. Auf dem weiteren Entwicklungs-Weg braucht es dann Geduld, Verständnis, die Fähigkeit, Mitarbeiter liebevoll mit ins Boot zu nehmen und Entscheidungen immer nur mit den Mitarbeiter zu treffen.

Urheber: Udo Glücks, 2016


Diversity Management – A Successful Business Culture Combines Heart and Soul with Intellect and Reason
– People Perspective
– Transformation and Growth Through Diversity

Where does successful Diversity Management start?
Experience and leadership best practices have shown that Diversity Management begins at the top, with leadership from the C-suite. More specifically, Diversity Management begins with an alignment of attitudes and behavior – those of the leadership and of each individual employee.

A company’s leadership team always serves as a role model for the company’s employees. Through their example, they create the momentum critical for building a pro-diversity corporate culture. To be a leader in today’s world is a tremendous challenge as the demands of the role and the skills needed to fulfill these demands have changed. It is no longer sufficient to be more knowledgeable than your colleagues in your specialty area. In today’s leadership culture, emotional and interpersonal competencies are just as important; good leaders use their pedagogical and psychological know-how to improve their interactions and enhance their relationships.

In addition to strategic and operational leadership and change management, responsible managers keep the needs of their direct reports as people in mind. They make the relations between people their top priority rather than leaving this task solely to HR. Such leaders encourage their employees by being role models who actively:

  • encourage and utilize the diversity of their personnel
  • recognize these differing talents and help employees develop their potential
  • add unconventional thinkers to their teams
  • build heterogeneous teams
  • recruit and appoint team members based on their strengths and skills
  • exemplify and implement openness across the company hierarchy
  • offer forthright feedback
  • create leadership cultures that put everyone on equal terms
  • work to avoid the adverse health effects (including burnout) that can result from long-term engagement in overly challenging or insufficiently challenging work activities

The days of orders and commands are over
A successful leadership culture is marked by trust and partnership and happens when people are on equal terms. In particular this involves:

  • promotion and intelligent use of heterogeneity on team tasks
  • a culture that allows for open feedback and discussion and where constructive criticism and the suggestions of team members are welcomed
  • an appreciative attitude and a communication style that puts everyone on equal terms
  • lifelong learning for all

However this innovative style of leadership can quickly take people to the edge of their existing level of expertise and tax their motivation. Leaders should therefore take a close look at their capabilities and their limits. Then, as a second step, they should examine their attitudes in order to develop their leadership skills further.

It’s commonly recognized that sustainable change begins with taking the first step and also with the person who is taking that step. Because of this, it is much more persuasive if the first step comes from top management. To succeed at what is most often a very challenging development process, even innovative and charismatic leaders need to have experienced sparing partners to provide them with feedback.

Added value through Diversity Management
Mixed forests are healthier and more full of life and so are cultures that put into practice Diversity Management. A healthy organizational culture based on diversity can be compared to a strong, natural and vital mixed forest. Such a forest is hardier and of greater value than a more homogeneous one which has been fashion on solely economic grounds. Unfortunately here in Germany, we are all too familiar with such closely planted, homogeneous fir and pine forests (particularly from the time of the planned economy of the DDR). These homogeneous plantings are like match stick forests: quickly uprooted in a storm and very susceptible to disease.

We are beginning to take responsibility for planting something more diverse and heterogeneous. And with this has come real success! The forests are becoming more resilient, long-lived and healthy. When you want a strong, vibrant organization, then “plant” it with diverse individuals. This naturally requires the appreciative and respectful treatment of every single person. It’s primarily a question of leaders’ personal attitudes and their behavior toward different people and their differing beliefs.

Im Umgang mit Individuen genügt nur das individuelle Verstehen.” – C.G. Jung

To understand an individual requires an individual understanding.”

Team development influences financial success
A meta-analysis has shown that of all the change strategies available, team development has the greatest impact on the bottom line. “Teams whose members have different knowledge bases, skills, perspectives and approaches can solve complex problems more effectively than homogeneous ones, who often have their collective blinders on,” according to Peter Kinne, Lecturer at the FOM School for Economics and Management and managing director and founder of Balancefirst Management Services.

Diversity Management cannot simply be decreed from the top
Diversity Management is not something that can be decreed from on high in order to follow a trend or to be “in.” Neither should Diversity Management be introduced without first establishing the necessary structures and developing a common vision and mission. Diversity Management requires true conviction. The process of Diversity Management is unquestionably associated with serious effort and a high degree of personal commitment. However, the effort is worth it!

Motivation, vision and concrete goals for change begin with and are anchored not in the head, but rather in the heart of those who undertake Diversity Management. The road to development requires leaders to have patience, understanding and to take on board the talents of their staff and include them in the decision making process at all times.

© Udo Glücks, 2016, translation © Katherine W Hirsh, 2016

Diversity Management – Udo Glücks

Off to a promising start: Goals that build in pleasure, productivity and proficiency

Having wrapped up the series on You Don’t Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right, I want to introduce you to my next Inspiration Shout-Out, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink. While I purchased this book several years ago, it was only late last year that I sat down to read it. When I finished, I wondered what I might have done differently in my personal life and in my work if I had read it sooner.

As the title declares, the key idea Pink wants to get across is that the things that truly motivate us may not be those that are conventionally are touted as such. Moreover, many of what he refers to as “Motivation 2.0” approaches would appear to reduce or inhibit sustained curiosity, effort and imagination, and thereby undermine our natural drive toward pleasure, productivity and proficiency.

“The problem with making an extrinsic reward the only destination that matters is that some people will choose the quickest route there, even if it means taking the low road.”

p. 51

If our motivation influences the path we take, then we need to craft a motivational approach, for ourselves and for those we lead or with whom we interact, such that we establish an environment that promotes effort, engagement and autonomy. With this in mind, here are several questions to ask yourself about your strategy for becoming and staying motivated:

  • How can we create goals such that they engage our internal wellspring of motivation: building competence, enhancing our sense of meaning and purpose, and fostering happiness?
  • How can we avoid distracting ourselves with quick fixes, short-term gains, addictive repetition or settling for what’s easy rather than what’s possible?
  • How can we make the activities needed to reach our goals so rewarding that we don’t just reach these goals, but instead far exceed them out of pure enjoyment?

“Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one’s sights and pushing toward the horizon.”

p. 58

Where have you set your sights? How are you motivating yourself? Are the rewards you’ve selected taking you along a route that stimulates creativity, innovation, integrity and taking initiative?

Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. NY: Riverhead.

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The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Off to a promising start: Goals that build in pleasure, productivity and proficiency

Educating our palates about development

‎At first blush the German words der Korkenzieher – “the corkscrew” – and der Erzieher – ” the educator” – would seem to have little in common other than their spellings. But break them down into their parts and there is an interesting connection: they both have to do with “bringing something up.” In the corkscrew case, that something is a cork and the “bringing up” is quite concrete. In the educator case, that something is a person or people and the “bringing up” refers to the more abstract notion of “raising” or “pulling” those people up to a higher level – be it intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioral, etc.

There are two things I like about this connection. First, when you think about educating as being like using a corkscrew, it implies that development is unlikely to be linear: there will be twists and turns and you will come to the same place repeatedly, but as you grow you navigate this place with a greater level of skill or ease. Thus the corkscrew model of development operates from within a growth mindset (click here for an engaging piece where Carol Dweck describes her model of mindset). There is no set endpoint and you have no limit to how far you can “pull yourself up” other than that of your own vision, your own commitment and the level of energy you bring to imagining that vision and enacting that commitment.

Contrast this with a fixed mindset. You have a gift, characteristic or skill. Or you don’t. With this mindset, your vision is limited and your energy and commitment drain away when you hit that first switchback. Because under a fixed mindset, if bringing that cork up to another level isn’t easy or you can’t make it happen perfectly the first time, then you can’t really have the gift. And if you are the educator or Erzieher with this mindset, you may believe the differences between your charges are evidence for hard-wired limits on their potential and as a result you may not even attempt to “bring them up.”

Second as you consider how an educator and a corkscrew are alike, imagine a sommelier wielding a corkscrew, ready to open a bottle of wine. The wine is presented to the customer with respect. Time is taken to look, smell and taste (and even to describe the “feel” in the mouth); to consider and then detail the wine’s stellar and signature qualities. The process of opening the wine is seen as important because the contents are seen to be important. What if we as educators wielded our tools to make the learning process one that respected all learners and found just the right way to “bring them up” to a new level? What if we took the time to discern the distinctive and special talents of all our colleagues, clients and significant others? If we were to focus not on what is lacking but rather on what there is for us to learn and on how we might learn it best? Uncorking such rare vintages would allow us to drink deeply of the diversity dividend.

Creative Commons License
The Diversity Dividend by Katherine W Hirsh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Portions of this piece appeared in Pull out all the stops, 25/11/2015 ‎

Educating our palates about development