A few weeks ago I repainted the ceiling of my music room. It was a pretty awful task, to be honest. Imagine standing on a chair holding a roller and trying to paint evenly upside down. All while not dripping paint all over yourself.
Why did I engage in this activity from Hades?
As many of you know, I play in two rock bands in my spare time. One of the rooms in my home is dedicated to musical instruments and practice, as well as the occasional houseguest. The previous owner of the house had a child who had put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. By the time we moved in, the stars had lost their glow and created stains on the ceiling when we removed them.
These stains bothered me for years. Lots of years. And there were other little blemishes in the room that I never made time to fix; I always had something more important to do. I would go into the room for music practice, but it didn’t feel as inviting as I would have liked.
One day I decided to do something about it. I had a whole weekend free (a rarity), so my husband and I rolled up our sleeves and started to paint. We touched up spots on the wall, fixed some mismatched colors, and made the ceiling look brand new!
The room was transformed. Now we spend a lot of our free time after work in there talking, listening to music, reading, and playing guitar. Same room, completely different feeling.
All because of some spackle and a coat of paint.
How does this apply to the workplace? Sometimes we can make an impact just by putting a new set of lenses on something that’s been in our sphere of influence for a long time.
Take Aspergers Syndrome as an example. Ten or twenty years ago, many people with Aspergers were turned down for jobs or promotions because hiring managers did not understand those candidates’ way of being in the world. With new research, better terminology, refined strategies, and reduced bias, many organizations have learned to benefit from what people with Aspergers have to offer.
We are starting to see the same thing happening with ADHD. For years, people who did not have ADHD thought that having it equaled being distracted and hyper. We now know that ADHD is a neuro-genetic condition that probably needs a new name! Through knowledge and a change in perspective, society has started to shift away from stigma and toward treatment, as well as toward appreciating the gifts of an ADHD brain.
Another issue needing a new set of lenses is diversity. Many organizations talk about making diversity and inclusion a priority, but the messaging around both needs a fresh coat of paint! Rather than frame diversity initiatives as something people feel forced into, or a standalone effort intended to “fix” people, the messaging need to convey the benefits to the company, and to the workforce. Who wouldn’t want to work on a team where everyone feels valued, where talent shortages are a thing of the past, and where everyone holds shared responsibility for communicating effectively? Only through confronting bias and promoting equity within the team or organization do you get these benefits.
What does your company need to repaint? Perhaps discussions around race need a new context or approach. Maybe you make cultural competence a leadership skill for every leader rather than a standalone training. Or maybe you simply learn to see another person’s point of view as one alternative, rather than dismiss it as wrong. Repainting alone will not solve complex issues like equity and bias. But it will help people get engaged to talk about those issues in the first place. Then you must do the work and follow through.
I invite you to choose one area where you feel resistance in the workplace, something that makes you feel discomfort when you hear or think about it (gender initiatives, remote work, generational differences, etc.) What new information can you discover about that thing? What new lenses might serve you better?
And now, I’m off to practice guitar in my “new” music room! Want to see the results? Join me on March 15, 2019 as my band The Spirit of Rush plays at Tannery Row in Buford. https://www.facebook.com/events/2175279149182123/