So, I had this epiphany when I was a young adult. I was in college and it was freshman year, and it was my first time living away from home. My roommate, also one of my best friends from high school, and I were getting into our first argument. She informed me that, to my shock, “not everyone was like me.” I thank Amy for this assertive statement, and recall that memory fondly as a great moment of self-awareness.
My roommate, Amy, and I had completely different personalities. While we had so much in common in our passions and interests, we could not have been further apart on our communication styles. As a results-oriented, direct communicator, I could not believe Amy would need time process her thoughts before sharing, and often thought of the impact on others before thinking of herself. She’s the steady one; I am the bold one. Still to this day, our differences are felt, and I am thankful to have someone to balance me out that knows me so well, and accepts me for who I am, even if our priorities are completely different.
It’s a good thing to surround ourselves with people different than us. This early lesson helped me early in my career, and continues to help me today in my work with leaders.
My favorite leadership tool on communication and diversity is DiSC. Shaped by our experiences, the people we have surrounded ourselves with, and our natural personality composition, we’re all wired a little differently. DiSC helps take the mystery out of people with two fundamentally simple, yet powerful dimensions – pace (fast vs. moderate) and preference (people vs. process), There is no right or wrong style, and the best teams have a diversity of styles across the styles – D (dominant), I (influence), S (steady), and C (conscience). While D’s and i’s prefer fast paced environments, the S’s and C’s prefer more moderate paced environments, the D’s and C’s prefer process-oriented work, while the I’s and S’ prefer more people-oriented work.
Back to Amy and I. Our dorm room fight was a product of our different styles. I was direct, bold, assertive, and strong-willed in getting my idea across to hear. As a high “D” at the time (although this has shifted since), I was a “my way or the high way” type of person. I cared about getting things done regardless of the impact on people. I also was decisive when our friends struggled to make a decision. Amy was more centered, steady, focused on the people around us, and cared about accommodating our friend circle’s needs. As a high “S,” Amy was the rock. While she naturally struggled to be decisive and assertive like me, she was my counter-balance and support when things got stressful. And, I was the driver that made things happen. Together, we were the dream team, complimenting one another’s weaknesses with our unique strengths.
After learning more about the tool DiSC, and having taken it three times now, I have morphed a bit over time from the high “D” to a moderate “Di” to now a high “I.” All of these shifts have been impacted by the work I am doing or the experiences that I have had. As a coach now, facilitating workshops and speaking in front of groups, influence takes precedence over dominance. I care about the impact to people more than the impact to results, more so than I did earlier in my career. Yet, this is a constant evolution.
Today, Amy and I are both coaches. Both doing the same type of work, yet with fundamentally different personalities. That’s what is so intriguing about diversity. Two very different people can have lots of commonality, and bring different skill sets to the team. We just have to be open to it. It’s all about being curious to learn from others different than us. Chances are they will make us better.
I have never forgotten this lesson that Amy taught me. Appreciate people that are different than you. It continues to drive me to this day in my work with leaders. By first being self-aware, we can be the leader the team needs us to be. We can “flex” our style to meet the team where they are at, and promote open divergent thinking as a positive thing for the team.
Remember, leaders that appreciate others NOT like them succeed. How will you welcome diversity into your career?
If you enjoyed this post, and could benefit from talking 1:1 about your team and diversity, find time on my calendar for a complimentary coaching session. We offer DiSC communication workshops for teams using our proven Pivot Point process.
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