Recently, a CEO asked me to spend some time with two of his prominent senior executives, whom I’ll call John & Nancy. These two got along so well that they could literally finish each other’s sentences; they were equally creative, spontaneous and enthusiastic, and had very similar approaches to solving problems. I found them to be jovial and fun, engaging, and motivating.
And a complete waste of the company’s resources (time, effort and capital) in their respective roles!The problem was that John and Nancy were too much alike! They were caught up in the novelty of the work, completely focused on developing new ideas and ensuring their people were happy. There was no evidence of constructive criticism, civil discourse, devil’s advocate dialogue, or any kind of pushback in meetings I observed (see related article: In 2011, Please Kill More Good Ideas!).
If you look at groups of people who effortlessly work well together, odds are they share many interests, traits, beliefs, and perspectives. They may have similar backgrounds, experiences, interests, personalities, and approaches to challenges and opportunities. As my colleagues Jennifer Whitt of PDUs2Go.com in her book, Optimize Your Thinking, and Stephen Shapiro in his book, Personality Poker, point out, contrary to popular belief, opposites do not attract.
Psychologists have confirmed that when it comes to our portfolio of relationships, we’re often attracted to people who are similar to us. We hear others describe their interpersonal relationships as “they get me,” or “we have chemistry.” As such, when it comes to our relationships in the workplace, we tend to surround ourselves with people who share similar thought processes, energy levels, and professional demeanor.
Unfortunately, too many similar relationship development styles are detrimental to your personal and professional growth.
The people you need the most – to provide unique insights, independent perspectives, and to question your key assumptions, you may like the least.
Chances are you’ll disagree often, and will have varying styles in approaching a challenge, or in seeing the silver lining in a project or key initiative setback. You may get in each other’s face, and one will force the other to focus, stay on course and within budget. You’ll think of them as controlling and will not agree with their limiting and restrictive approach. Their persistence will keep you focused. Their strengths will complement your abilities and illuminate your blind spots.
You’ll find them unrelenting and in spite of annoying each other you’ll reach that next milestone or finish line feeling invigorated by the experience. You’ll deliver successful results highly visible to the organization.
So, the next time you’re facing a challenge or an opportunity, instead of going to someone who thinks just like you, look for your opposites. Very likely they’ll bother you at your core, and may not give you the answers you want, but will be the exact recipe you need for impactful results.
Stay tuned for our online debut of the much anticipated Relationship Signature Index™ (RSI) assessment.