Respecting diversity is good business! 4


If you could do business with foreigners, would you learn how to understand and respect them? Of course you would.


When you start out, it seems as if they are from another planet. You know that any errors will offend them and your chances will be gone. So, you quickly invest in training courses in respect. You learn a few words in their language. You attend a course on body language and you learn about social norms, meeting rules and how to do business. Well prepared, you begin to do well, with your foreign client. All is well.

Learning how to do business with your own “foreign” team members makes just as much sense.

You then you get back to work. Each morning your diverse staff arrives at your firm and, they too, often behave in ways which seem foreign. They arrive in varied transport from unusual places. Soweto, Inanda, Sandton, Khayelitsha, La Lucia, Phoenix, Botshabelo, Bloemfontein, Giyani and the Cape Flats, spring to mind. Each of them lives life differently.

We ignore all that and expect them to know and follow our way. No adjusting to their cultures and traditions. We often get frustrated and ask, “Why do “they” do that?”

Because who they are is not important, many become isolated and angry. Staff turnover is high. Team work is poor and commitment low. This shows up in gossiping, back-stabbing, cultural clashes and absent staff. We could force them to comply. Warn and discipline them. They will leave, or we could fire them.

Alternatively, you could invest in knowing each other by building respect and understanding thereby uniting the team and clearing conflict. This brings trust and ownership to the team. They will belong and you will release their full potential.

There are many opportunities through knowing and respecting the “foreign” people in your firm. Grow your firm. Build yourself and unite your diverse team.

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