To the Friend, the Colleague and the Mentor…

As with many of us in drawing closer to the end of the year I begin to reflect. 2014 has been a big year; achievements, weddings, promotions, recognition, trials, tribulations, moving house, restructures, new management, to name a few and the list goes on. And in this time of reflection I’m continuously brought back to two things, relationships and communication. Largely the two fit very nicely together, and in this instance it’s the positive in the two I’m focusing on.

In my workplace every December for the past five years we’ve completed the Gallup Q12 Survey. One of the statements “I have a best friend at work” always strikes a chord with staff. Often I wonder what it is about this they find amusing, challenging and/or at times silly? For me it’s very simple – do you have someone at work you can talk to? It’s someone to bounce ideas off, talk through problems or issues; share in wins and the like. I’m sure for most of us there may be more than one person who fits the bill depending on the situation and for others they may have a set ‘go-to’ person. For me there are many; but for the purpose of this piece there’s one in particular I have in mind. She’s a rock, a super star and never ceases to amaze me in her ability to go out of her way to ensure the growth, development and support of others. This person has become a true friend, and in many ways a mentor.

My friend/s. I’m an extrovert so yes there are many, but some that are true treasures that I hold very dear and these are the ones who truly know me. They too have filled all three roles at times – friend, mentor and colleague. Their unquestioning support and at times unasked for opinions are what makes the relationship beautiful and gives me an added confidence in myself and the roads I choose to travel. I back myself 100%, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without these wonderful people to sharing in my life’s journey.

Some years back I had a wonderful mentor, who became a collegue and is now a friend. And similarly a new mentor relationship has evolved through a social media friendship with a like-minded sole who was/is always available for support and conversation, and I’m looking forward to where this road takes us.

And this is my point in many ways. These roles can interchange over the course of time, colleague, mentor, friend. Relationships evolve. To each of these people and these roles thank you. Thank you for the support, for the guidance, for being there and for the lack of judgement. Thank you for seeing me on my own path, nudging me back if I stray over the centre line, for still being there when I’ve taken a wrong turn or veered way off path and had to make a u-turn. Value your relationships. Make time for them and put effort into them. Communicate. Ensure people know how much you appreciate them. Give back…tis the season after all.

With nods to the following for inspiration:
http://www.kingfishercoaching.com/diversity-valuing-people-for-what-they-are/
https://hrmannz.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/the-12-blogs-of-christmas-2014-7/

Diversity & Inclusion

One of my favourite things to do in life is to watch my four year old daughter interacting with others her age when she doesn’t know I’m watching. Whether it be at preschool, playing in our street, the local park or out at the mall, the place and the people make no difference to her, everyone is included. She doesn’t differentiate the way the she relates to and interacts with people be they young, old, male, female, blonde, brunette – you get where I’m going with this. And it’s got me thinking lately about diversity and inclusion.

As I’ve said children don’t discriminate; so when is it we begin to be programmed to view people as different than ourselves, or to start to classify them under specific banners and headings? And what elicits this change? Does it get worse as we progress through life? Are there factors that contribute more or less to this phenomenon? And once learned can biases or ways of classifying people be unlearned? And would this be beneficial to society? Is diversity something that should be actively pursued in a workplace or is it something that should naturally occur out of an inclusive society? And does such thing exist?

That’s a lot of questions arising from the simple pleasure of watching a child forge their own relationships in the world, I know. But I can’t help wondering what I as a parent can do to halt or reverse what seems an almost inevitable decent into various biases? And in turn what could be done in organisations to do the same. I realise there’s been a lot written about and researched in terms of this subject in the workplace, and there is some incredible change starting to take place, but it’s a large slow old ship in general that will take a long time to complete a 180° turn.

New Zealand’s an incredibly diverse society to grow up in now, and I think our younger generation will be leaps and bounds ahead of generations before in terms of diversity due to the nature of that. A 2012 study, by the New Zealand Herald (published here: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10837572) is a testament to this and there are some really eye opening highlights from the 2013 census available (http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-about-national-highlights/cultural-diversity.aspx).

My daughter start school next year, at arguably one of the country’s most culturally diverse primary schools with 76 different ethnicities identified among approximately 500 pupils according to Board of Trustees members and the 2012 E.R.O. report (http://www.ero.govt.nz/Early-Childhood-School-Reports/School-Reports/Freemans-Bay-School-07-03-2012). At the tender age of four she is already well aware of cultural differences, but not biases. She knows Mummy is European, she herself identifies as Maori; she speaks both English and Te Reo fluently and easily adapts to and picks up on other languages – a week’s holiday in Noumea saw her come home speaking mainly French! When she starts school she will be entering a bilingual classroom, where despite her identifying as Maori, in terms of looks she will be vastly different from the majority of students. But this won’t matter; to her or the other students in her class and the rest of the school.  Within minutes of her first school visit she had disappeared with other students to explore, and I have no doubt this is how she will continue her schooling – by easily identifying with people from all walks of life and not treating them differently because of what they identify with or as, and despite any labels society may choose to impose on them.

I think we can learn a lot from pre and primary school children and the way they view the world. If we all held on to the inclusive and non-discriminatory views such as theirs we would all enjoy a society free of biases, without the need to create diverse workplaces as they would be a natural result of society. I haven’t got the answers to all my questions, but as a parent I’m going to do all I can to ensure my daughter doesn’t lose her naturally inclusive ways, and to encourage her to develop even more inclusive ways and practices with the hope that she in turn will encourage that in those around her.

I think current generations have made an excellent start; being aware of the need for diversity and inclusion is a huge step in the right direction. I hope this will simply become second nature for future generations and I can see this becoming a reality. The reasoning is two-fold; we are aware now, organisations and individuals the world over are actively working towards this and the world is a vast place but becoming smaller every day. The world of work is changing; borderlines are blurring and being removed, people are travelling and relocating for work the world over, and as a result societies are changing, diversifying…and hopefully becoming more inclusive. I say I always advocate modelling the behaviour of children, but in this instance, I’ve no doubt they’ve got it right.