As I was waiting for a virtual interview with former trade minister Vasant Bharath to begin last Wednesday, my eyes were drawn to a beautiful painting hanging behind him on the wall over his right shoulder.
With a few minutes left before the official start of the show, which was going to be broadcast live on television, I asked him about that painting.
Mr Bharath explained it was part of his personal collection from his favourite artist.
Unfortunately, the artist’s name has since slipped out of my mind, and for that, I am genuinely sorry.
Mr Bharath is no stranger to the national spotlight after years of public service and political ambitions.
Yet, unsurprisingly, a Google search for “who is Vasant Bharath’s favourite artist” proved futile.
There were no results about Bharath’s love of art.
One of the things that the COVID pandemic and the resultant increase in the dependency on technology has done is give us a peek into the homes and lives of people in a way we did not have before.
It’s a portal into the personal lives of people with whom we may have only had a professional relationship.
This is how I also found out about a former colleague’s green thumb and gorgeous garden.
But apart from fassness, more importantly, these two situations have reminded me that people are not one-dimensional.
They never were, and they have never been.
Although far too often we, myself included, tend to place people into boxes and label them, this is both unfortunate and unfair.
We are all multi-faceted and complex.
Take, for example, Colin Robinson, who died in March at the age of 58.
For many years all I knew of Colin was that he was a local gay rights activist and a very vocal one at that.
That was until I called him one day for an interview, and we spoke for a bit.
Then I found out Colin had placed first in the country when he wrote the common entrance exam, won a national scholarship to attend Yale University before dropping out and completing his undergrad degree at New York University.
And still, that was not all that Colin was. He was also a poet and author, and much more.
When we box people into one dimension and fail to understand that they, like us, are also a mix of messy and magnificent, we are selling them short.
In this vein, I applaud Scotiabank T&T for taking a bold step this week with its latest advertising campaign.
The social media campaign, which started on Monday, features six proud members of the LGBTQIA community educating us on the various difficulties they have experienced.
They ended with one voice:
“But when I can focus on opportunities, instead of barriers. When I can celebrate who I love just like everyone else. When I know I belong. When I feel like I belong. I can be my whole self.”
As a strong show of support, former national football team skipper Kenwyne Jones also added his voice as an ally:
Jones ends with the statement:
“Inclusion begins with all of us. We all need to embrace and respect each other because when everyone can be their whole self, we all thrive.”
A bold step from the bank, the participants, and Jones.
But understanding and respecting individuality is not only for customers.
Employers and team leaders also need to understand that staff are not just one thing.
Everyone is unique.
So management cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.
Yes, it would be best if you had an overall team direction and everyone working together.
But when you are working on the bigger picture, individuals matter the most and we are all programmed differently.
Sometimes what is needed is less of a macro-level approach to one that is more on an individual level.
And this is why Phil Jackson could have gotten the best out of the legendary Chicago Bulls with two opposing personalities in Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman.
Jackson worked with individuals and their personalities so that they were able to capture a three-peat.
How else can you explain Rodman being granted a Las Vegas vacation in the middle of the season?
On an employee level, we have seen a visible shift in the way we view work.
The pandemic has disrupted the labour market in many ways. No longer one dimensional, a second job or side hustle has become a necessity.
From hydroponic gardening to online trading, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has provided an impetus for entrepreneurship, tapping into our multi-dimensional self.