Why it’s important to cultivate a diverse leadership circle

Why it’s important to cultivate a diverse leadership circle

Cultivate a diverse leadership circle


Who do you see when you look around you?  What types of people are in your circles – of friends and colleagues, as well as the people you hire?

Homogeneity or Diversity?

Much in life would be easier if we were surrounded by like-minded individuals that reaffirm our thoughts, beliefs and feelings.  Easier, maybe, but we wouldn’t get very far.

Diversity in our circles is what pushes and challenges us.  Allows us to experience cultures, perspectives, values and ideas we might not otherwise be exposed to.  It helps us lead richer lives.

As leaders, I would argue that a homogeneous circle can lead to disaster.  Not only do we need diversity, we need to be very aware of our own tendencies, challenges, and strengths to ensure we balance those in our circles.

Like-minded partners can help us save time and effort

In my most recent role, I was the first to develop a certain type of strategy at a particular breadth and scale.  Over the last year, other groups have initiated similar efforts, allowing me to meet a number of new people, all with similar goals as mine.

We spent a lot of time and money on our strategy, and we get more value out of it if shared.  If it means other teams can reduce the cost and effort of their work, all the better.

One of these colleagues and I meet regularly and have gotten to know each other pretty well.  I consider him to be part of my “common sense club” – the nickname I gave my circle.  The members are those that have the uncommon gift of common sense.

While he and I get along very well, and agree fundamentally in a lot of areas, we are very different.  He loves spending hours with his music.  I can bury myself in writing.  He considers himself slow to move, wanting to understand all the variables of a situation.  I’m the first to jump at something new, working through the variables as they come.

Too much like-mindedness can create blind spots

The other day, we were talking about those differences, and agree it’s part of the reason we partner so well together.  We challenge each other, with an end result that is better than if we worked independently.

We also discussed our teams.  Two very different leaders have two very different teams, but they have one thing in common.

Our teams complement us.

The key to success is balance in our circle

Where he considers himself slow and deliberate, considering all the potential issues and risks, his team is more prone to action.  His way of thinking about problems keeps the team from rushing into chaos unprepared.

I, on the other hand, am very fast-paced.  I focus on framing out a vision and high-level plan that delivers value early and often.  Looking around my team, I lean heavily towards people that can take those high-level plans and make them executable, with a tendency to slow-down and understand all the possible risks and pitfalls.

While we each have some people on our teams that have styles more aligned to ours, they are relatively few.  Instead, we complement our natural gifts and challenges with teams that provide a better overall balance.

When I’m eager to move forward, he shares the risks that need to be accounted for.  The issues he reveals and solves create new opportunities and capabilities my team may leverage, as intended or in a different way.

If I push forward with my organizations’ top concerns, we go through (sometimes painful) issue identification and learnings.  We share those and make it easier for other teams to accelerate their plans.


As leaders, we each have our strengths, which we should leverage as much as possible.  We also have our challenges.

We could spend our time trying to improve them – and to some degree that is necessary.  However, there is also the option of balancing our challenges with the strengths of others by building diversity in the circles that surround us.

Work’s a zoo? Embrace your leadership spirit animal

Work’s a zoo? Embrace your leadership spirit animal

Work's a zoo? Embrace your leadership spirit animal.
We’re all humans here, right?  Well, maybe.  While we may be more civilized than animals at the zoo, or in the wild, we have still demonstrate behaviors similar to our less civilized brethren.

If work sometimes feels like a zoo, it may be because we sense or demonstrate characteristics of the animal kingdom.  Whether intentional or not, we’ve all met – or been – someone that seems to be channeling a spirit animal.

Personally, I think of myself as a lion.  I’m fiercely protective of my team and family.  Read on to find other characteristics of the king of the jungle, and see which spirit animal you – or those around you – have embraced.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Lions are fierce and protective of the pride (team).  Familial by nature, lions can live long through cooperation or die young due to infighting.  Everyone in the pride has a role to play, taking care of one another while excluding outsiders.

Managing People Frustrations (Part III)

Managing People Frustrations (Part III)

ManagingPeople FrustrationsII-2
This is the last of a three-part series regarding the most common advice I provide in response to people frustrations.  In all cases, I have found that people frustrations can be resolved by focusing on Communication and Compassion.

The first challenge was focused on email, and I offered the “1-2-Meet” approach to improving response rates and engagement.

The next challenge was about reconciling differences of opinion, using the “Find the AND” approach.

What if the “1-2-Meet” or “Find the AND” approaches don’t seem to fit and we’re still frustrated? I have one last piece of people advice.  If we find ourselves getting frustrated, we just need to remember one universal truth…


It’s not about you


Managing People Frustrations (Part II)

Managing People Frustrations (Part II)

ManagingPeople FrustrationsII
Recently, I shared that the most common types of advice I’m asked to provide tend to focus on people frustrations.  And that the root cause, and therefore any solutions, center around Communication and Compassion.

The first challenge was focused on email, and I offered the “1-2-Meet” approach to improving response rates and engagement.

The next challenge is about reconciling differences of opinion.  What can we do when we’re convinced of the right way forward, or the right answer, and someone else is convinced otherwise?


Find the AND

Let’s start from the premise that we all want to wake up every day, knowing we add value to an organization or effort.

To know we add value, we have to understand our role and its relationship to the mission of the team, organization or company.

In our attempts to find, realize, or maximize our value, sometimes we may forget that everyone around us is doing the same thing.  Each of us can get so caught up in “me” that the potential awesomeness of “we” is lost. 

Managing People Frustrations (Part I)

Managing People Frustrations (Part I)

ManagingPeople FrustrationsII-3
I spend most of my day doing two things – story-telling and advising. I’ll leave story-telling, or “Death by PowerPoint,” for another day.

While much of the advising I do ends up involving story-telling, what has fascinated me recently is how similar the requests for advice are…regardless of who is making them.

While we all have plenty to do, and normally not enough time or resources to get it done, job-based concerns tend to be the most straight-forward.  What is not as straight-forward are people-based concerns, which may require assistance to resolve.

When I am approached for advice, people-based challenges tend to be the most common, highlighting frustrations of one kind or another.  The good news is, the challenges have common themes:  communication and compassion.

Communication challenges can point to method or message. Are we using the right medium? Are we considering how our message may be received? While there is no tone in email, is there implied tone due to how the message has been framed?

Compassion, on the other-hand, is appreciating the position or circumstance of the other person.  When communication and compassion challenges are both present, frustrations run high on both sides, standing in the way of getting our jobs done and eroding relationships.

There are three key pieces of advice that I tend to fall back on whenever I hear the words “I frustrated with <insert name/team here>.” The first, and focus of this week, is all about that pesky thing called email.