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Vive la difference

December 2, 2011

The Local History Services Department recently went out on an afternoon of team-building to Petite Chou, a French caf? in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis. They have lots of interesting food, but we all had dessert crepes. I had banana and brown sugar; Jeannette had chocolate and berries; Tamara had caramel and apple; and Stacy had Nutella. The crepes were all different and we each enjoyed our own.

Spending that afternoon together reinforced to me how different we all are as people. Not only did we all eat different food, we all have very different personalities and bring very different outlooks and skills to the LHS team. We are each able to do many different things, but we each our have own strengths (and weaknesses).

I?m the strategist. I think long term; lots of what if … ? kind of thoughts. Stacy is the tactical mind. She breaks up the path to the long distance target into small doable pieces. Jeannette is the visual and logistical thinker. She manages the county historian program, schedules most of our trips and keeps many different projects on course. Tamara is the integrator.? She helps people with different viewpoints to come together and agree.

The fact that we are all so different has pluses and minuses. We each look at a potential issue facing the department differently. That means we sometimes disagree but we seldom overlook something important. We often suggest different approaches to challenges we face, but that means we have lots of options to choose from and we usually choose the right path.

I appreciate the various skills and experiences of my colleagues on the LHS team. While it would be easier for my mental health to have everyone think EXACTLY like I do, it wouldn?t create a strong team. The LHS team would be much weaker if we all had the same skills and outlook.

Local history groups have the same challenges fulfilling their missions as our department. It?s often easiest to work with people that are similar but it is not as effective in achieving your goals. Celebrate the differences we all bring to our organizations. Work to bring in folks that disagree or have different skills. It will make the organization stronger.
As they might say at Petite Chou caf?, vive la difference.?


Jeff Harris is director of Local History Services. He constantly travels the state for his job, giving him the opportunity to pursue his dream of finding the perfect mashed potatoes.

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