“We must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.”
~Audre Lorde

Whenever I teach DiSC styles, I tell the story of how, when I was in Columbia Business School, and there was conflict within my study group, I thought, “if everyone handled this just like I did, we would be so much better off.” Whenever I tell this story and Robyn is in the room with me, she invariably nods and offers, “yes, that is what Lisa thought.”

I’m not proud of this, and I now know I was absolutely wrong and it’s actually the different ways people approached ideas, problem solved, and handled situations that brought our study group better results. But boy, I didn’t know that then.

And while I “should” have maybe known it – being that I was on my way to becoming a leadership consultant and executive coach – in my defense, many of us walk through life thinking that others are “wrong” because they’re different from us or that life would be better (certainly easier and most likely have more powerful outcomes) if everyone saw the world the way we did (the “right” way) and did what we would do in any and every situation. (Have you ever heard yourself say or think, “I would never do it that way. This is the way anyone should do it if they’re doing it right…”)

I see this sureness of our own “right” way and “best” approach and “truest” thinking cause more and more problems in my clients’ organizations, in their families, and in our world.

The surest way I’ve found to move forward in a tough situation or through a challenging relationship is to find a way to honor and respect differences. To learn about others’ perspectives and reasons for their perspectives. To recognize that differences provide us an amazing opportunity to learn and to grow. To expand our horizons. To see things differently and potentially to see things we would have never seen before.

Welcoming and applauding differences can stretch us to – or even past – our limits. Allowing that our view may not be “right” and that there may be truth and enlightenment in someone and something that is unknown to us. Or strange to us. Or that conflicts with everything we hold dear and believe beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Allowing for this truth and enlightenment – this possibility – can yield us with more and more to celebrate. With more possibilities. And more growth.

But first I (we) have to get over the certainty that life would be better – and our outcomes would be stronger – “if you all handled everything just like I do.”

How have you learned to celebrate and grow from differences? How has it been challenging for you?
Please leave a comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

If you want to welcome – and invite – more differences, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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