Wednesday, 19 September 2012

People Like Us

This article was published in the Swindon Coaching Team Blog in June 2012
When you walk into a room of strangers, whether at a party or a networking event, who do you seek out to talk to? Do you take the PLU approach (‘people like us’ a term invented by Lady Astor in the 1920s) those who look like you, dress like you and hopefully have the same views as you? Do you chose the best looking or most attractive people in the room to talk to - hoping they will talk to you? Or are you prepared to talk to anyone who doesn’t fit the above? How do you feel about talking to the non PLU’s – people outside the group you feel most comfortable with? It’s much more of a challenge. The case for diversity We all know that everyone is unique - even though people have things in common with each other they are also different in all sorts of ways. Differences include visible and non-visible factors, for example, personal characteristics such as background, culture, personality, and work-style, size, accent, language. Some of these are covered by discrimination law to protect against being treated unfairly – things like race, disability, sexual orientation, age, gender reassignment, sex, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion and belief. 

Managing diversity is valuing everyone as an individual – valuing people as employees, customers and clients. Even within a narrow band people have different needs, and so even people who appear to be in the same group within a PLU have different needs, values and beliefs. Equally individuals within different ‘diversity groups’ may have many characteristics in common. Equal opportunities? 

It is important to recognise that a ‘one-size-fits all' approach to managing people does not achieve fairness and equality of opportunity for everyone. Equal opportunity is often seen as meaning treating everyone in exactly the same way. But to provide real equality of opportunity, people need to be treated differently in ways that are fair and tailored to their needs but in ways that are aligned to business needs and objectives. 

 There are three main strands to the business case for going beyond what is required by legislation: people issues, market competitiveness, and corporate reputation. The law is there to enforce diversity, but the most successful organisations embrace diversity as a means of best utilising skills from different groups, if nothing else as a means of reaching out to those groups. Equally, having worked in 17 countries I have learnt to combine the accepted wisdoms of national characteristics with treating people as individuals. I have always sought to broaden my experiences and know how to do so. But I still have to ‘catch myself’ for avoiding particular groups. But what about you? Next time you go to party or networking – will it be more PLU's or the excitement of gaining new experiences and friends? You may recognise that while you may be scared of meeting complete strangers they could equally be scared of meeting you. Our coaches can help you rise to the challenge to make life more exciting and rewarding and lead to opportunities you never dreamed possible. 3 tips from David – 1. You will be no worse off if you approach a stranger and they say 'no' than if you had never asked at all. 2. People can me more scared of approaching you than you are of approaching them. 3. And from NLP - "If you always do what you always did - then you will always get what you always got". David is our resident coach specialising in resilience and positive psychology. If you’d like to discuss any of these further, just get in touch for a free chat!

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