Get Me Out of Here!: How to Create an “Us”

Elevator Group for E-zine Jan. '13

Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.

An inclusive workgroup, project team, or organization is one in which people of all backgrounds comfortably work together toward a common purpose. This means that diverse contributors come together with their differences intact to form a unified team that is proud to call themselves “US.”

It is in this “US” that a successful future lies. Unified teams are, you see, quite plainly more successful. They are more successful because the individuals on those teams trust each other; because they more readily share their ideas; because they are generous with the knowledge and skills they possess.

Remember, though, that this is not an US in which everyone is the same, it is far better than that. It is an US in which team members share goals but bring to the achievement of those goals highly-valued and divergent strengths, backgrounds, ideas, and points of view.

Identifying Common Goals

Imagine that you are stuck in an elevator, between floors, with a few other people.

It doesn’t take long at all for you and your fellow “prisoners” to abandon all pretense of conventional elevator etiquette. You no longer stand erect and stare forward – looking neither to the left nor to the right. And, certainly, you no longer pretend you are alone. The normal silence is quickly broken with the sounds of “oh oh’s” and “oh no’s.”

Once the reality hits that the elevator is malfunctioning, any fine distinctions about who belongs to what demographic category instantly dissolves – you are now all members of a newly created and, of necessity, inclusive US. In other words, a large dose of commonality kicks in.

In this case, your particular US is composed of people who share the stark terror of being trapped in a small space, out of control, and possessing no knowledge of when or how the “adventure” will end. The group now has one shared priority – one common goal: get the heck out of there – the sooner, the better.

Certainly, an inclusive group born of a temporary experience like being trapped in an elevator has a short life span, but the principle of sharing a common goal applies equally to more lasting situations.

Shared goals, you see, have the power to fill the fissure that separates us. When people realize that they are all “in the same boat” – striving to achieve the same thing, it is much easier to see past the differences to the common humanity that unites us. In the case of our stranded elevator passengers, nobody cares that the woman with the engineering skill to figure a way out is in a wheelchair or that the man with the ability to keep everyone calm is shabbily dressed.

You are not, at this minute at least, stuck between floors. You are, however, working with others in challenging times. Just as you would need a variety of skills and traits to orchestrate and execute a safe and efficient escape from a broken elevator, you need a variety of teammates to succeed in today’s workplace.

So, no matter what the goal – be it to get out of a stuck elevator or complete a project – a truly successful team will have these characteristics:

  • The ability to sustain mutual trust
  • A continuous commitment to shared goals
  • The ability to sustain harmony in the face of stress
  • A sense of shared responsibility
  • Mutual respect
  • A willingness to share information and ideas
  • A desire to collaborate
  • A shared pre-occupation with solutions
  • Belief in each other
  • An ongoing sense of “USNESS.

What these characteristics really mean is that as each of us works with a variety of people, we need to abandon any old elevator habits of staring forward.

It’s time for us to look around and begin to appreciate and include all the folks who are on our team – all of the unique and special people who need to help us reach that top floor labeled: “SUCCESS.”

The article is excerpted from Sondra Thiederman’s book, The Diversity and Inclusion Handbook. Click here to find out how to purchase it in individual or bulk quantities.

Sondra Thiederman can be contacted for webinars and in-person presentations by clicking here or calling 619-583-4478. For additional information, go to www.thiederman.com.

© copyright 2013 Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.

Feel free to re-print or re-post as long as copyright and web site (www.thiederman.com) information is attached.

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