Recently I worked with a consulting firm that utilizes the information we provide to help their clients with strategy implementation.
This particular client company had a common problem that we often see in countless and varied organizations. There are no companies that seem to be immune to it. Managers are cloning themselves. They were hiring people that closely mirrored who they are – people that seemed to have “that certain something.” They were bringing in people who made the hiring managers say, “You know, there was really something about that guy that made me feel very comfortable. He would fit very well in our team.”
I can still vividly remember the conversation I had with one manager eight years ago. He told me, with a lot of enthusiasm and conviction, “I know exactly what I need to do. I need to clone myself. Then all of my worries will be gone!” He was a manager of approximately 45 account executives at a financial services organization. While his group was doing modestly well, no one attributed any of the credit for success to him. It was a classic case of “doing well despite oneself.”
Have you ever been in a situation when you had a hard time finding the right words to tell someone politely that they were dead wrong? I am pretty comfortable doing it now. Eight years ago I was not so comfortable. I remember saying to myself, “Clone you! Why do you think I am here?”
Since that moment, I have heard the same idea countless times. Actually, on the surface it makes a lot of sense. If I am successful as a manager, or at the very least think I am, why not duplicate myself and multiply the success? (By the way, I have not met many managers who said they were not good managers – have you? I think there must be a few of them out there. At least the employees sometimes claim they are out there.) This plan sounds logical, simple and straightforward. Why not go for it?
And many do. They bring people into their team who, in essence, are mirror images. They act and think just like the boss. Conflicts will happen less often, everyone will get along and life is smooth sailing.
Unfortunately, it is not all smooth sailing. Although a team with similar style employees tends to increase its strengths, the group will also amplify its weaknesses. What’s worse is that they are usually completely oblivious to the latter. No one wants to face this fact. And the ones that do realize it often find it to be a lot more comfortable to be quiet. Who wants to rock the proverbial boat and to tell the boss they are doing it wrong?
The same happens in people’s personal lives. However, it seems that we are more aware of it then. We are more mindful of when we are more alike. We can recognize the amplification of strengths and weaknesses that takes place. For example, take a couple of analytical people. They usually are aware that they have a hard time making decisions quickly and can even poke fun at themselves.
But at work, it is different. The problem is ignored and no humor is found in the situation. What often compounds the problem is that certain kinds of careers, jobs and even organizations tend to attract similar styles of employees. For example, the engineering field attracts more analytical styles while sales careers often pull in more people-oriented styles. Combine this with a manager who replicates him/herself and you end up with a team of clones.
“Markku, what is the best behavioral style for a leader (or manager, salesperson, etc.)?” This is a question I get asked frequently – almost every day. My honest answer always is: “It depends on what you need. Do you know what you need?”
Because the truth is that there is no one best behavioral style.
There really is not, although I, at times, think mine is pretty good. Then I take another candid look.
However, there is a common denominator with all successful people. They know who they are and they are honest with themselves. They are not afraid to look into the mirror and face the truth about their strengths, weaknesses and challenges. What’s more, they capitalize on their strengths, and they recruit to their weakness. They actually surround themselves with people who are different from their own style. Why would anyone want to do this? Aren’t they inviting disagreements, conflicts and misery?
Maybe. But what they are also doing is recruiting additional strengths, different viewpoints, and diverse talents to their team.
Please understand, I am not advocating that every team should be equally balanced with the different behavioral styles. That is rarely the best case. However, the most effective teams closely match the behavioral requirements that the mission of the team dictate. When the behavioral styles are closely aligned with the behavioral requirements, the team succeeds.
In sports everyone seems to understand this concept clearly. Many of us have our favorite players. We have our favorite quarterback, pitcher, or center. But, let me ask you this. Would you want your favorite sports team to be clones of that one player? Of course not! Your team would never have a chance to succeed, even though someone could clone a team of your superstar.
Next time you see a manager clone trying to clone him/herself, you may want to ask the same question. Do you really want to clone yourself or do you want to succeed?