Early in my career, I had the privilege to participate in, and eventually be trained to facilitate for others, training that ended always confirming the educational leader I continue to strive to be – Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. With school culture at the forefront of my priorities and leading with empathy at the heart of who I aspire to be, I found myself remembering the story of Mauritius that Covey used in his training. Mauritius, officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometers off the southeast coast of the African continent. The compelling aspect of Mauritius, for the purpose of Covey’s training, is that the island includes people of vastly diverse religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The video I share below is used in Covey’s training and it demonstrates how the islanders have achieved multicultural diversity with an incredibly high level of valuing differences. The lessons learned through studying Mauritius can be applied to individuals, teams, organizations, and schools. Following are the cultural norms by which the people of Mauritius live:
- “Recognize the right of everyone to be different.”
- “It’s just not the work of one ethnic group or one culture – give the very best of yourself.”
- “When a question is asked, we don’t all give the same answer.”
- “I can’t live without the the Chinese, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Creoles, the Franco-Mauritian…they make my humanity.”
- “There is no religion of the world that preaches anything contrary to love, to universal brotherhood.” – “Look at others with heart.”
- “We open the doors and the windows and allow all currents to come in, but we try to stay on our feet.”
The beginning of the video a man is interviewed sharing what is at the heart of what the people of Mauritius believe: They “consider each group as a fruit…and we want to make Mauritius not a marmalade…[not] one marmalade with only one taste…[in Mauritius] we would like to have a fruit salad…where each one retains its individual flavor and taste.” View the 12-minute video that shares the island’s unique history, interviews key individuals, and reinforces the aforementioned norms. After viewing, what does this make you think about within your own life – personally and professionally? To what norm ought we give attention to further self-actualize within our own family, school or organization? May we begin to, in our great country, be sure we are looking “at others with heart!”
We want to and must lead our live with empathy – our theme for the year. Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – a powerful leadership trait in my experience. In an article from Education Week, To Understand Your Students, Use ‘Compassionate Curiosity’
,“‘Compassionate curiosity’ is medicinal. It helps build critical trust and connection with our students because it communicates to them that they matter. It is also illuminating. It can interrupt our potential biases and assumptions about our students’ thinking and abilities.”
I love the alliteration with the two C’s in Compassionate Currosity, though compassion is concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others whereas empathy is truly understanding and connect with others’ feelings. It is the epitome of being others focused! So, how about empathetic curiosity? Nah, it just doesn’t roll off the tongue the same way. It matters not as the spirit of this notion of compassionate curiosity is noble indeed. Redford is spot on when he shares that “Simply listening—really listening—without offering any silver-bullet solutions can work wonders. Demonstrating that I am paying attention and that I care can sometimes be enough to help a student feel seen and want to invest in learning.”
Stephen Covey would urge us all to use “empathic listening”. Check out the article from Fast Company called Using Empathic Listening to Collaborate
, which focuses on Covey’s Habit 5 – seek first to understand, then to be understood. What I find incredibly interesting that, for me, cements the importance of Habit 5, is Covey’s levels of listening. Here are his five levels of listening:
- Ignoring. The lowest level of listening is called ignoring – not listening at all.
- Pretend Listening
- Selective Listening
- Attentive Listening
- The fifth level of listening is Empathic Listening. Empathic listening is the top level of listening.
With this compassionate curiosity or empathic listening, as Redford states, we can approach a student’s, a colleague’s, a friend’s or a family member’s “struggles like puzzles to solve, rather than problems to react to, makes our instruction more effective. It also makes teaching more rewarding and enjoyable.” As it relates to our Culturally Competent Teaching training, this concept of using curiosity and compassion rather than judgement is powerful. We all tend to judge people and situations too quickly – in an instant. Using compassionate curiosity to develop more care and understanding by exercising curiosity and compassion over judgement. It will make us more powerful solution finders and better human beings. Let us lean into to seeking first to understand, then to be understood by empathically listening first.
Also, feel free to review two previous posts below where I mention this importance of empathetic listening:
Want more from the Genius of Covey? View this 17 minute video of him storytelling around the importance of seeking first to understand through empathic listening.
In today’s world, some may say we’re more polarized than ever finding camps of commonalities and comfort within which to exist as individuals and communities. I would like to challenge that notion as there are wonderful pockets of inclusive, integrated and socially diverse communities particularly found in two places in the United States: our public schools and our most successful companies. In the article How Diversity Makes Us Smart, Columbia Business School professor Katherine W. Phillips confirms that the scientific research on the importance of this level of social diversity is clearly evident. She readily admits that “diversity of expertise confers benefits that are obvious – you would not think of building a new car without engineers, designers and quality-control experts.” In this article she makes the case for social diversity by answering the question, “What good comes from diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation?” In short, Phillips shares research proving that “being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working.” What better place than a public school is there to enjoy this level of social diversity and nurture our creativity and effort? In the article, Phillips details three key aspects of social diversity:
- Socially diverse groups are more innovative than homogeneous groups.
- A group of people with diverse individual expertise is more effective than a homogeneous group at solving complex, nonroutine problems.
- This is not only because people with different backgrounds bring new information. Simply interacting with individuals who are different forces group members to prepare better, to anticipate alternative viewpoints and to expect that reaching consensus will take effort.
That said, in explicitly building our teams to maximize this social diversity, Juliet Bourke, leader of the Australian Diversity and Inclusion practice, explains that we need to avoid the “Noah’s Ark” response to building diverse teams. Let’s not put our faith in luck simply shuffling people into our teams two by two! Bourke shares her experience, research and lessons in the area of diversity and inclusion to answer the key question within her book title, Which two heads are better than one? . Note the three lessons below and have a look at her 13-minute talk that further highlights these lessons.
- Diverse groups make better decisions.
- There are six mindsets and behaviors exhibited by inclusive leaders (commitment, courage, cognizance, curiosity, cultural intelligence and collaboration).
- Vulnerability begets vulnerability.
Here’s to each of us getting smarter within our socially diverse settings and building upon them to maximize the social diversity!