Growing up in a family where I had 47 first cousins, the expression “you are the living image of your aunt or uncle” was part of everyday vocabulary. Everyone looked like someone — everyone except my sister and I. Being adopted, we were never told that we were the living image of anyone. We were different, but only in our physical appearance.
Never once were we made to feel we didn’t fit, or that we weren’t fully fledged members of the family. We were; we just entered it a different way than everyone else, and that made us special.
As we look at the employees in our organizations, what journey did they take to get there? Historically, managers have hired people who reflect their own images. They usually select employees they are comfortable with who have had similar journeys. However, they should recruit individuals who have taken a different path and can bring a rare and innovative view to the table.
Our industry is built on ideas. The best ideas are developed when there is a mix of perspectives, where people are made to feel included, that the difference they bring is not only welcomed, but is an essential part of success.
Like me with my family, they should not be made to feel like an outsider, but experience that strong sense of belonging brought about only when they are seen for the value they bring, and not discounted for their sex, religion, color, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or any other difference.
As Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness said, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”