I know, another topic we all know. You ever wonder why everyone is writing leadership books, motivational blogs or anything to do with giving us tips and tricks to living a better life? Well it is because we all want to live a better life. However, we have troubles changing our behaviour or busting our ass to do it. I am not pointing the finger at you alone, I also point it to myself. So, with all my education, training and experience in leadership and coaching, how come I sometimes fall trap to not really learning this. Well, I could talk about many reasons why (hmmm, maybe I should write a book about it), but today I will only talk about the one thing I fell trap to recently, stereotyping.
Ok, before you think, uh oh here comes another moron with opinions about people. You may have the opinion part right, but hopefully not the moron. We all know that stereotyping can be harmful. Stereotyping can bring about a negative perception and you believe they are absolute. It is the absolute part I am writing about. The reason I am coming up with this, is because recently I was part of something that helped me learn about the city I live in. I saw something truly amazing and at the same time sad that stereotyping was happening on a city level.
So before moving here, I fell victim to the stereotype. When getting ready to come here, I had lots of great advice from many people I know who have lived here, driven through here and heard about it. “It is a blue collared mining town.” “Be careful it is rough up there.” “It is ugly too, did you know NASA trains up there because it looks like the moon.” So, what is the first image that comes to my mind: someone crawling out of dirt, heading to the pub to drink beer and not caring about much else, while a moon rover rolls by. Ya, sorry that is a stupid thing to think. This is what I am getting at, even with so much experience breaking through stereotypes around the world, the little bugger comes up and bits me in the ass sometime.
Well, after volunteering with something that helped me learn more about the city and living here for a while, you start to learn things. First thing I learned, is that there is so much beauty here and everyone knows it. Second thing is the mining, although important and still a good roll here, it is only about 10% of the workforce in mining and what is supported by it. There are so many other businesses here that are thriving outside of Sudbury and headquartered here. There is a community of businesses that want to see it grow here. Oh,the miners, ya no climbing out of dirt and drinking beer, they actually blend into the environment like every other human being here. However, that jerk of a thing called Stereotyping effects everyone here too. Yes, after everyone knows all this stuff, everyone still calls this place “a blue collared mining town, that is rough.” It is so engrained into everyone’s behaviour, that it is hard to see past it. So many are held back, many do not push the envelope of what could be and so many are afraid to bust out of this mold because of fear of being exposed as different or causing change.
This is what Stereotyping does, it holds us back. It puts us not just in a box, but a cement box that is tough to break. When cracks are exposed, they are not exploited, for fear of what might happen if the box smashes open. People tend to stick to their own, feeling that they do not match the criteria of what the town is. Funny thing is, many people feel the same way, no matter what shirt they wear (ya, blue collar is a term that has to go). This controls how people move in their life, how they decide to do things and how they interact with their city. Being the outsider looking in, from inside, I feel everyone here is looking to break the mold, however the stereotype prevents them, because they think they are different from everyone else on this subject. The place is slow to change, slow to progress and slow to collaborate together. People love the North, but kids go south for education and get away from something they do not relate to.
So the story does not go much farther then that, because I am still living it here, trying to do what I can to get more involved. What is the moral then? Well first off, Sudbury is a beautiful place with a thriving diverse culture and businesses, including its rich mining history. It is more than one thing, so come check it out. Everyone needs to stop being pegged into a defined group. I use to do some form of stereotyping for planning purposes to help me prepare. Well maybe that was my problem that causes this attitude to sneak up on me. I keep wanting to prepare and be ready, when most times being open and flexible is by far more important, especially when dealing with people and places. Planning considerations need to change, so that people, city or countries are not stereotyped. I now live in an area that I feel is held down by a stereotype, where everyone knows it and has so much trouble breaking from it. This is how stereotyping hurts your motivation and freedom in your life, it mentally hinders you from being something undefinable, something truly great, because a stereotype makes you poorly defined and boxed in.
So now you ask, how can we change this? Honestly, for myself it is always work in progress. Whenever I thought I had it handled, it comes to me. However, with any good and important behaviour change, comes work and determination. I know I will learn by doing what is the best way for me to improve, as you have your own ways that helps your behaviour change. If I gave you the answer, would you really follow it? Would you really change your behaviour to do it? I think it takes a lot more then a few opinions from me to do that. I hope this has made you open your eyes a little more, so that you can start to see where you can develop. Like any good leadership coach, I have to say if you want help with that or for those in your business, I can always help. I will always continue to develop myself, so should you.
Shawn Pettis, CD, MA(Leadership)
Integral Master Coach™
Bask in the Sun Coaching Inc.
Clarity Strength Purpose