Diversity = Uniqueness
“My name is Donna BUCKLAND and I look like THIS.”
This is an icebreaker comment as a person of Korean heritage, having spent my formative years in New Zealand, being married to a Kiwi with British heritage (hence the name).
As an introvert, a youngish woman in management, and an oriental with working experience predominantly in western society, I embody the minority in my professional circle which considers the opposite of these things to be the “norm”.
I established my point of difference by focussing on my asset – being somewhat non-vanilla. I sought comfort and counsel in the words of Oscar Wilde, “be yourself, everybody else is taken”. After all, vanilla is plain and sometimes you need a combination of non-vanilla to please the changing appetite of the masses.
To me, diversity means uniqueness. To utilise this concept to an organisation’s advantage, I believe in creating an ecosystem where people of diversity can be symbiotic at grass roots level, empowered by inclusive leadership.
I believe in the power generated from small steps at a micro level, having a ripple effect at a macro level in any social setting, be it within a complex multinational corporation, or within a charity.
Deloitte’s framework* articulates the traits of inclusive leadership in plain language (Deloitte,2016). The recent experience of being an MC for the AMBS East Asia centre’s annual dinner themed “Diversity and Inclusion” provided an opportunity to reflect on this – a micro application of this macro level thinking.
I am an introvert, certainly not the heart of any party. But when asked to become the hosting MC for an annual dinner, it was the curiosity that intrigued me – what learning and experience will I gain from this rare opportunity? I grabbed the opportunity.
The evening was to be hosted by a team of 6 MCs, all coming from a different cultural background, both professionally and from a life experience aspect.
When we held pre-planning sessions, sharing ideas on how to engage the audience with varying backgrounds helped us stay on course for the evening to be relevant and enjoyable without being culturally insensitive to some.
Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses and when collaboratively galvanised, this minimises the weaknesses and highlights the strengths of the team. My partnering MC was excellent in setting the sequence and direction for the flow, and this was complimented with the rest of the team’s ability to adapt and collaborate with the details, as the devil is in the details sometimes.
The majority of the MCs had heavy professional commitments and had to overlay the MC hosting planning and practice. I, for one, crossed 4 international borders in 10 days leading up to the event. It was the commitment to make it work that created the “art of possible”. It is absolutely possible when you want it to happen, reviewing the run chart on a flight, organising a costume while waiting to board, or self-role playing while commuting. Technology enables us to do these with ease. The opposite however, is that if you don’t want this to happen, no technology will be able to facilitate success.
Things don’t always go as planned. When we planned to have a video come on the stage there was a delay, making a rather awkward situation. So what do we do? – draw on courage to make the most of the minor crisis and deal with it with humour and candour. It could have gone another way, but it was the courage of conviction to make the most of the opportunity which paid dividends, and obtained applause and laughter. For an MC, that is akin to success.
My biggest learning through this experience was recognising my unconscious bias. For someone who didn’t want to be pigeon holed to be a type, I recognised I pigeon holed my partner MC as being the dominating type. By putting an effort to understand him through dialogue, I got to know him better, a person whose drive is so positively contagious. I felt embarrassed I risked pigeon holing him to a type. A lesson learned on the virtue of humility.
Learning by doing
With the help of the Manchester method, 5 key points stood out for me, at the end of the plan, action and reflection circle.
- Diversity pays dividends when collaboration of unique ideas is encouraged.
- Be curious and restless for grabbing onto opportunities
- Stand on your feet with courage of conviction
- Understand people through dialogue to see through the wrapper they come in
- Have a sense of humility to learn from all experiences
Who would have thought I would reflect on these in one night by being an MC for an annual dinner? Perhaps this is a grass roots example of how the AMBS is helping me open doors to go for the opportunities I never thought possible before.
Finance Director, Prudential Corporation Asia
President Elect, Rotary Club of Hong Kong
Global MBA Candidate
*Bourke, J. and Dillon, B. (2016) Deloitte Insights, ‘The six signature traits of inclusive leadership - thriving in a diverse new world’
Available at: https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/topics/talent/six-signature-traits-of-inclusive-leadership.html (Accessed: 1 November 2017)