Monday, February 13, 2012

Supporting Difference At Your Nonprofit

If a nonprofit is to truly thrive from the diversity of its employees, its leaders must truly learn to embrace it.  That's the message Martin N. Davidson has for nonprofit managers.

Davidson, a faculty member and former chief diversity officer at the University of Virginia, wrote about the ways this goal can be accomplished in his book "The End of Diversity as We Know It."  He writes that the first step in the process is to manage human relationships.  This can be a difficult process, but it can be accomplished.  He recommends four core relational skills to engage another individual across differences:
  • Inquiry. This skill goes beyond asking the basic questions and acquiring information verbally. It extends to asking about the rationales that lead to other people’s conclusions, and exploring assumptions about others’ goals and interests.
  • Listening. By conveying a genuine interest, the listener not only gains real knowledge but also lays a foundation for trust and respect that carries over to future interactions.
  • Self-disclosure. The most powerful way to do this is through personal narratives about difference. Self-disclosure is a dynamic process that involves sharing of information.
  • Managing feedback. This means both giving and receiving feedback. Access to accurate feedback about professional and personal behavior is essential for fostering high performance at work and maintaining vibrancy and authenticity in a relationship. It is important to understand, however, that lack of comfort involving differences can make it difficult to exchange feedback.
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