Blog
Blog

Beware of Excellent Sheep

The team you hire or assemble needs to include people who DO NOT see things the same way you do. Professional irreverence is a gift when delivered by emotionally mature people.

Ok, so I totally borrowed the phrase “excellent sheep” from Yale professor and author, William Deresiewicz. He wrote a book by the same name but I loved the phrase and concept so much that I had to reference it. In his book he is talking mainly about college students and Ivy League schools’ expectations but his term has useful applicability to what I’m about to tell you. In case you’re interested in reading his book or seeing the reviews, here’s the link to the New York Times review: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/13/books/excellent-sheep-william-deresiewiczs-manifesto.html

Before deciding to become a career coach, I worked in corporate recruiting and human resources for 20 years. When I worked with hiring managers, I always asked them to consider 2 things when hiring for their teams:

  1. Hire the person who is different than you. The one who brings a skill set that is missing from your resume or your current team. Why? Because diversity in teams leads to higher rates of innovation and customer engagement. By the way, diversity isn’t limited to just an EEOC classification.
  2. Hire the person whose skill deficiency is something that you like to coach or develop. Some managers find a new skill set they didn’t realize they had when they became thoughtful about coaching employees. Keep in mind if you hire someone with a skill set that frustrates you, it’s going to make both of you miserable.

Diversity – Did you have a moment of clarity when you thought about coaching for skills you enjoy developing vs. ones you don’t? Yep, most of my hiring managers did too. The word diversity can be a polarizing term but it doesn’t have to be. Bringing diversity to your teams in multiple ways is good. Good for you, good for the team, good for your company and good for your customers. There is A LOT of research and opinion on the web and in research labs out there. A couple of references on the topic that I particularly like:

Diversity leading to higher rates of innovation as a Ted Talk:
https://www.ted.com/talks/rocio_lorenzo_want_a_more_innovative_company_hire_more_women

Diversity hiring from global management consulting firm McKinsey:
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

Diversity of thought from workforce HCM software developer Peoplefluent:
https://www.peoplefluent.com/peoplefluent-blog/blog/3-benefits-to-recruiting-with-thought-diversiy

Diversity can mean hiring more women, hiring more people of a specific ethnicity, or hiring people who THINK differently.

Irreverence – It’s a great word, although Webster is not totally helping me portray it as positive when it defines it as: “lacking proper respect or seriousness; also: satiric” I define it (in a professional setting) as making decisions that are grounded in common sense but not necessarily decisions that follow the accepted rules or processes. You will note; I added emotionally mature people. We all know people who don’t follow the rules AND treat people disrespectfully – because they’re arrogant jerks. That is NOT what I mean. The type of irreverence I’m talking about is the kind that comes when totally cool new products are invented or brand new customer markets are discovered because someone ignores people around them saying things like “we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way”.

Bottom line – Think carefully about your coaching skills and who you are as a manager. Then consider what skills, diversity and degree of rule-following you need on your team.