We are all unique beings and therefore we must all be different. The problem with difference though is that it seems to cause so much conflict.
On a recent ride to Koringberg, an old and dirty car, with an elderly couple inside, pulled up outside the small shop where we were standing next to the bike enjoying crisps and a Coke. The man gestured something which I interpreted as “are we too close or will you be able to ride out easily enough?”. His arm movements continued, so I walked up to his window where he began to negotiate an exchange – his car for our bike.
Turns out he is 81 and lives in Koringberg after retiring from owning a food caravan and going from one event to another across South Africa, catering meals for event goers.
Him and I might never have chatted were it not for his lifelong love of anything motorbike related. He owned an AJS in the 1950’s which he told me, with a naughty smile, “went like mad”. He no longer rides but he feels a strong connection with bikers. He makes way for them when they come up behind him on roads allowing for easy overtaking, he never misses MotoGP races, loves Valentino Rossi and all this I know about him due to owning and riding a motorbike.
Rahul who owns the small spaza shop on the other hand is always on the look-out for new opportunities for expansion in other small towns or settlements. As we also live in a small town we got chatting about opportunities in and around Riebeek West.
On our trip back, I reflected on differences and the benefits of difference when it comes to teamwork, expansion, innovation and the opportunities it brings to add points of view, perspectives and approaches.
Maybe we focus too much on difference and trying to create uniformity. When we connect with a difference through even one small shared interest, experience, belief, hope etc. a door opens. We find something we share. Something we have in common. A view we both hold dear. When this is found we build a bridge. We notice a link. This is such a good moment.
Once there is a bridge in place, crossing it to explore the other side becomes easier. We can cross over, explore and return home at any time. I know my side of things and now I get to add another. Sometimes we see things differently – sometimes it is different – with the bridge in place a blind or default level of intolerance is limited. If the old man and I both love motorbikes and riding them then he can’t be all wrong.
As bikers, we don’t even agree on the best type of bike to own. Some prefer off-road, others dual sport, then there are the fans of cruisers and the super bike clangs. We intersect at the point of bike – that’s what sparks the conversations when our paths cross.
How does this apply in your business?
Teams require difference in order to succeed. They require the fulfillment of various roles and disciplines to reach their goals. They don’t do well when difference results in silos. When difference promotes separate development within the team. They struggle when difference prompts internal conflict and competition.
Concentrate your communication efforts, for a while, to remind everyone in your team of the points of common interest. Where and how they intersect. What they have in common.
Explore how two views are better than one.
Encourage them to move over to the so-called other side and see how things are done there.
Understand the challenges they face, the things they value, the opportunities they have and then cross back and explore how you can help them. Imagine if everyone on your team did this.
Cross over to all the other sides that exist in your company, develop real empathy and then return to make life easier for everyone else through the work you do and the responsibilities you have.
The Ripple Effect deals with the obvious, and the not so obvious, through our ongoing training programmes.
It is obvious that teamwork improves results.
You employ teams but when last did you do something specific to get your team to work?
By Louis Gerke
Development Facilitator – The Ripple Effect
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