A wise woman told me early in my career, that I should hire to my weakness. In other words, figure out the things that I am not particularly good at or that I hate to do and hire people who excel at these things. For example, I am not a great detail person. Assembling a spreadsheet for budgets was something that made me pull my hair out. Could I do it? Yes. Would I hate every minute of it? YES! So in the past, being aware of my strengths and weaknesses has helped me to pull together successful teams.
This sounds quite simple and logical. However, human nature often leads us in a different direction. Our default behavior is to hire people most like ourselves. We are most comfortable managing people who are similar to us. The end result? We dont have the balance and strength in our team that will help us be successful.
In Margaret Heffernans book, Willful Blindness, she examines the human desire for familiarity and explains how it narrows our perspectives, limits our experiences and exposure to different thinking and opinions.
Embedded in our self-definition, we build relationships, institutions, cities, systems, and cultures that in reaffirming our values, blind us to alternatives. This is where our willful blindness originates: in the innate human desire for familiarity, for likeness, that is fundamental to the way our minds work.
How does this behavior limit our success in business? When we hire people most like us, we dont have the advantage of diverse opinions and rich experiences that people with different backgrounds and skills offer. This is one of the main arguments for more diversity on corporate boards and in executive positions. Studies have shown that companies with more diversity at this senior level outperform other companies. And on our teams, we want that balance of skills as well.
As we think about building relationships to further advance our career, we also need to keep this in mind. Dont build a network solely with people who are familiar and most like you. Seek to develop the strategic relationships that can impact and influence your career.
Be aware of how your willful blindness can sabotage your efforts to be successful and stretch your comfort zone to seek out those who can best help you to meet and exceed your goals.