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The Value of Our Differences

When things go wrong in any relationship - personally or professionally - it is easy to blame someone else. Rarely do we take the time to look ourselves in the mirror and ask how we contributed to the problem. When I went through my divorce process I decided to do some introspective work to evaluate areas in my life where I could do better.

Throughout out my career I have taken initiative to ask for feedback on my performance. I decided to apply this approach to my personal life by reaching out to people close to me for their perspectives. This was not a comfortable exercise, however it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made as it helped me to increase my level of self awareness. This input, along with the many lessons learned from my divorce, positioned me well to carve out the next chapter of my life more intentionally and with greater purpose.

As a serial entrepreneur, this also enhanced the way I approach my endeavors and engage with other people. I am someone who is often looked to for advice as I tend to take a balanced view on various issues and make a fair assessment of different situations. Before arriving at a decision, I value being able to see issues from different points of view.

I am very fortunate and grateful to have people I am close to who are different from me in a variety of ways. These differences include age, race, religion, sexual preference, socio-economic background, political beliefs, etc. While we may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, I demonstrate respect for other people. It is more comfortable for us to surround ourselves with people who look, think, and act exactly like us. This does not allow us to achieve the best outcomes because we are unable to see things from a holistic perspective. According to Forbes,"Teams and companies that make diversity a priority offer a variety of ideas, perspectives and learning opportunities. Diverse employees can bring together their different talents, experiences and various skill sets to come up with creative and inventive solutions, whereas another group made up of people with similar backgrounds and skill sets may decide to solve a dilemma in the same way they always have."

During my career, I founded an employee resource network group to bridge the gap between employees of different generations in the workforce. By leading the creation of a forum to bring my colleagues together and have ongoing dialogue, greater awareness and understanding of work style preferences among employees took place.

For better or worse our backgrounds shape the way we go through life. As an African American woman I have experienced challenges both personally and professionally. There have been times when I have been in work settings and there is no one else that looks like me. This does not discourage me. When necessary, I am able to shed light on certain issues impacting other groups of people to include minorities and also seize the opportunity to share my personal experiences and views to foster greater understanding.

It's easy to share our truest beliefs and thoughts with people who look and think like us because this seems safe. Creating meaningful change involves listening to each, seeking understanding, and being willing to share our stories even when it makes us uncomfortable.

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