There are many books I plan to rave about and yet I had to jump ahead and write about this one; I just finished listening to it and cannot stop talking about ducks, elephants, and giraffes, “Oh my!” I must rave about The Loudest Duck: Moving Beyond Diversity While Embracing Differences by Laura Liswood sooner than later as I will likely reference it many times over in future blogging. Liswood explains dominant and non-dominant cultures; dominant being anyone in the majority group, non-dominant being the minority. In writing this rave, I realized I cannot rewrite her book for you as I found myself attempting in the first version of this post…Instead I will muse over how fitting her book is for the military. Yes, if I could, I would get a copy for every leader…okay, every follower too. There are so many types of groups: race, gender, orientation, even height (and yes, some of my best friends are short!). We don’t have to learn everything about someone not like us; just be cognizant of what group we are in, acknowledge the differences, and become a little more strategic in our approach.
In the Loudest Duck, Liswood illustrates the Noah’s Ark approach to diversity; a corporation will get two of each in different groups, bring them together, and call it a day. Then they pat themselves on the back for seeming to be diverse. Sometimes they don’t realize the chaos that ensues on the ship or that there are individuals who struggle. We may have inadvertently created a similar environment in the military. We don’t necessarily recruit for representation; however, we are a volunteer force of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines from all walks of life. This diversity is one of our strengths; it is one of the primary reasons I love serving. Having said that, we can do better; how great would it be if we can equip everyone coming in with a few considerations from the Loudest Duck? We all unite to accomplish the mission, we tend to find common ground, but I agree with Liswood - we can we move beyond marching everyone on our Military Ark.
Hush Now Child
In the Ark, Liswood mentions how it is natural for the giraffe to look curiously at the zebra and judge his stubby neck, especially if it is the first time she has seen a zebra; she may even wonder why his stripes are so long when her spots are so beautiful. Liswood calls this bringing Grandma to work. Grandma is the accumulation of your beliefs and perspectives on the world, how you were raised - everything influencing your current opinion on others. For example, society has overall expectations of how a man and woman should interact; biases about women exist in both genders. Grandma does not exclude, she’s with all of us and when she says “young ladies should be nice and quiet,” young women may hear that statement more than men. One can probably already guess, my Grandma gave up trying to silence me…
Giving Granny a Gun
The military is indeed a melting pot of many talents and backgrounds; it is the backbone of our strength and yet, just like anywhere else in society, issues spark because of these broad differences. Women are now allowed to serve in all aspects - no barriers. Furthermore, our gay brothers and sisters in arms are allowed to be open, be themselves; no more concern of risking their careers for who they love. We all serve, but we must recognize Grandma has her rifle right there with us. What I’ve noticed is there is an expectation we all “get along;” however, there are so many awkward moments where the majority simply has no idea how to relate to the minority.
If it Walks Like a Duck…
When that awkwardness occurs, we reach for what is safe, good ol’ fashioned political correctness and avoidance. We try to ignore Grandma as much as possible, she does not belong…or does she? My vote is give her a uniform and let her meet the other Grandmas, the more they talk, the more we can understand each other…maybe they will all play bridge, backgammon, or golf. Eventually the giraffe will appreciate the color contrast of the zebra, but the first step is for her to acknowledge and embrace the fact that they are different animals. Liswood provides many wonderful illustrations and stories gently pointing out challenges and needed consideration for diverse group dynamics. If we follow the Loudest Duck, we really can take the time to learn about and pull in all the strengths from everyone in the workplace. Whether you are in the dominant or non-dominant group (and that can vary situation to situation, I’ll discuss that later), we can learn how to encourage full participation and level the playing field for giraffes, zebras, and ducks.