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Insights: Uniquely You
November 17, 2009
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Each one of us is wonderfully unique. This week, Bill asks the question: "Isn't it time we started celebrating and harnessing uniqueness rather than finding reason to criticise it?"
It's time to celebrate!
No, we haven't won the world cup, it isn't New Year's eve and it's not even the birthday of anyone I know.
Nevertheless, there's never anything wrong with finding reason to celebrate and today I invite you to do so in the knowledge that you are truly one of a kind.
Our judgmental nature
Over the week-end I found myself reflecting on how judgmental we can be about other people. It seems part of our human nature to find fault with others and in so doing deflect from some of the attributes we own and feel less than comfortable with.
We often sugar coat the criticism of others by prefixing it with something more positive - and in so doing promote the idea that we are presenting a fair and balanced opinion. We build up and then put down as if that makes our criticism more acceptable and us more likable.
How often have you heard:
"You know, Janine is such a wonderful person most of the time. It's just such a pity that she..."
"I really like Stefan but..."
"Mr & Mrs Davids next door have all the attributes of good neighbours. If only they..."
Encouraging more tolerance
What I want to propose in this week's message is that it is easier to be more tolerant of others, and more understanding of attributes and mannerisms that differ from our own, if we spend a few moments considering the benefits of the uniqueness bestowed on each of us. And perhaps the best way to do this is by focusing, first on what makes us unique - and then relating that experience to others.
It's interesting to watch young people grow and develop. Babies begin with the perception that they exist as an extension of their mother, then grow into little people with very distinct identities and an awareness of their uniqueness. Then, with the onset of pre-teen and teenage years, any differentiating characteristics and mannerisms are carefully disguised as the young people seek to blend in with their peers, preferring to present a common rather than individual identity to the world. Fortunately, for most, this period is transitory and gives way in early adulthood to the acceptance of uniqueness.
Accepted but not celebrated
Uniqueness, though readily accepted by most adults, is not always appreciated, and seldom celebrated, thanks to the commercially-driven, conformist culture that we have built.
Yet, it is our very uniqueness that makes this world such an exciting place to live. By recognising, encouraging and harnessing our own uniqueness and the unique qualities of others, we can achieve far more and do it in a way that is infinitely more fulfilling.
Teamwork and leadership - a practical example
One practical example of what I mean can be found in the area of teamwork and leadership.
The conventional, and flawed, approach that many leaders take to building teams is to hire like minded people in their own mould. So, a Harvard MBA graduate may, given sufficient resources, look to find other well educated people to whom they can relate academically and socially, thinking that this will minimise the possibility for conflict and misinterpretation and thus create the optimum team dynamic.
A more enlightened approach would be to consider the project at hand and to look for individuals with unique skills, attributes and passions to handle each of the many aspects of the task.
Rather than seek conformity, the role of a good leader is to welcome diversity in the knowledge that many different qualities and abilities are required to complete the task. A good leader will respect, and play to the strengths of each individual on the team, managing them as a group of unique and distinct individuals and recognising and rewarding them for their valued contributions to the group cause.
Leaders require power if they are to bring about notable advances in their fields.
Temporary power can be achieved by forcing conformity through rigid policies, strict rules and harsh punishment. Authentic power, is more challenging to achieve but is longer lasting and substantially more creative. It is achieved by respecting uniqueness, harnessing individual passions and creating an environment in which each contributor is encouraged to give freely of their talents.
A lesson for individuals
The lesson for us as individuals is to reconsider the way we perceive of ourselves and change the way we interact with others.
By learning to respect and love what it is that makes us unique, we will start to recognise and appreciate this in others. If, instead of looking for differences to criticise we can commend and encourage the uniqueness of each person we come into contact with, we will find life richer, more fulfilling and more meaningful - and we will help the world to become a better place.
Let today be something different. Let it be the day you celebrate being uniquely you!
Till next week...
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