My parents constantly reminded us growing up of the Golden Rule, "Treat each other the way you would want to be treated". Follow this basic rule when you interact with people and you will most likely have a good relationship with them based on mutual respect and care. Through my high school years, this attitude and behavior was a good foundation but growing up in northern Wisconsin in the mid-70s and 80s, where there was very limited ethnic diversity, never really stretched me to understand the complexity of successfully interacting in a truly diverse world.
College opened my eyes and gave me an awareness of how little exposure I had to diversity growing up. I met and developed friends in a more ethnic environment, still following the formula of the “Golden Rule”. I had new experiences because I kept my heart and eyes open to the new environment I was in. I still did not truly understand the complexity of gender diversity as a male student attending an 88% male, engineering college.
When I entered the workplace in 1986, there were very few women at Caterpillar, however, my mom shared on multiple occasions the struggles she had in the male dominated banking industry of the 80s and 90s. She spoke about her frustration and the impact of not being heard and her personal challenges of being excluded. This increased my awareness of how I was "treating others" in the workplace, especially women.
My wife and I raised our four children using the same basic principle of "treating each other the way you want to be treated", but with more depth in understanding and being aware of the role they play in accepting all diversity in the world. They embraced this idea as we relocated multiple times and also took an ISE assignment.
Fast forward to now...my three daughters are grown and are in the business world themselves. I now reflect on how they have influenced me as a leader. They added one more dimension of depth to how I treat my employees; I "treat each other the way that I want my daughters to be treated." I don't want them to be treated special, I just want them to be treated the way that I want to be treated.
Long-term organizational behavior and cultural changes sometimes start with the basics, perhaps the same basics that we were taught as four and five year olds. And like ourselves, organizations grow in depth and understanding through learning and experiences. Sometimes Bold things are just that simple... Treat each other how you want to be treated. It is not a complex concept but it will open your eyes and your heart to the power of diversity.
Chief Engineer – SM&T