“It’s OK, I Can Hire People Who Are Easier to Manage!”
When taking on an existing team as a leader, there are all sorts of complications: learning about the characteristics of the team members; understanding the role and future requirements; making an impact for senior executives. Leadership can seem like a daunting task sometimes. And when it comes to the team members, it’s not surprising many leaders think to themselves “do I really have to make all this effort to lead a team effectively”, questioning why people are so different, need different things and seem to confusingly misinterpret communication.
If a leader doesn’t make the effort, then the team will feel misunderstood, under-valued and demotivated. Unfortunately, these leaders are why many people leave their role, including the top talent.
As you lead a team for longer, the effort is rewarded. However, those less confident of having the necessary leadership skills could take the longevity of the role in a different direction – to start to hire people more like them. I am not saying they would deliberately push people out, but over time they would be reducing the number of people causing them higher levels of conflict.
Recent Research by the CIPD showed managers can tend to hire “mini-me’s”. Unconsciously, we can be biased towards those more like us (cognitive biases) – that’s why we have the friends that we do – but my concern is that this should never become a deliberate strategy when building a team.
There are pros to hiring people more like you, with the potential that they:
- Appear easier to manage
- Get the tasks done and are easier to delegate to.
- Require less stressful and time consuming conflict management.
- They “fit” in with your view of the company culture.
However, there are far more cons than may seem obvious at first glance:
- Fairness and favouritism, and potential for discrimination (inc legal issues)
- Diminished trust from those not in the inner circle
- Group-think (and its potential issues from lack of challenge to risky decisions)
- Reduced creativity and innovation
- Lack of progress on productivity, efficiency and new products to market.
- A study in 2013 by the Center for Talent Innovation found that companies with diverse personnel are 75% more likely to see their ideas make it to the marketplace, 70% more likely to go into new markets and 40% more likely to improve market share.
- Missing valuable input when finding viable solutions to problems.
- A team with unbalanced characteristics may miss vital information and input eg. some may want to spend time gathering information but resist finishing the project, some may reach conclusions quickly before all the data and possibilities have been explored, some may spend alot of time focussing outwards but neglect internal issues, some may want to develop ideas and plans thoughtfully but may neglect to gather input, involve others in development or communicate sufficiently.
- Cross-departmental conflict (as there’ll always be different “personality types” in other teams!)
- Lack of ability to move with the times, as the current “fit” may not take into account what characteristics a workforce needs in a few years time.
“It would be so much easier if everyone seemed to speak the same language!” But where’s the fun and challenge in that?? The role of a leader is always going to be complicated, by nature of human beings, and I know that many do want to encourage broad thinking and a wider perspective throughout their teams.
My recommendation would be to listen to your inner voice and question whether you’ve ever thought it would be best to only employee like-minded people to your team. Below are a few things to consider to reduce the risk:
- Develop self-awareness, leadership and conflict management skills, so that the challenges don’t always seem so daunting.
- Develop the confidence to listen, make mistakes and encourage people to contribute to discussions.
- Understand how cognitive biases could be at play in your decision making and team discussions.
- Review past experiences and notice where someone with a different point of view has challenged the status quo with surprising results.
- Review your hiring process – could the job specification bias who applies, do you have a standard set of questions so that any “selective hearing/memory” is reduced?
Hiring the right people for your organisation is fundamental, and a diverse team will give you so many added benefits, when you have the ability to lead them effectively.