When it comes to the challenges of building an executive team, nearly every CEO or business owner involved in that process will say to me: “I’m a really good judge of character.” Too often, as a result, these leaders shortcut a thorough interview, and that perfect person turns out to be a terrible technical or cultural fit, resulting in more turnover or worse, an employee who stays and makes everyone else miserable. Or, trusting in their own instincts, they hire or promote the members of their team based on rapport—eschewing structured hiring processes and best practices to go instead with their “gut feeling.” You might ask yourself, “Well, if I am a great judge of character, why is that bad? After all, I’ve been successful.” Point taken.
The tradeoff is you may end up surrounding yourself with people you probably “click with” because they share your same strengths, values, and ways of thinking—exactly the people least likely to challenge your decisions. That’s a risky game to play in a competitive marketplace. When you surround yourself with more of “you,” you set up blind spots that can prevent you from seeing oncoming challenges because your team sees the world much like you do rather than being able to challenge, question, or offer a different perspective. As a result, you may miss opportunities to hear valid dissent or alternative ideas. Putting your emotional intelligence to work in the hiring and promoting process can help prevent these blind spots from occurring.
In this chapter, we will look at Ego Trap #3, surrounding yourself with more of you when you hire, promote, and build your executive team or fill other posts in the organization. Whether you’re the CEO of a multi-billion dollar organization or a thriving business owner, this trap is easy to fall into. While there are benefits to liking your team members and shared values can be important, creating a team in which people tend to interact with the world in the same way as you (e.g., all extroverts or all introverts or all right-brained or all left-brained) or in which everyone has similar backgrounds (e.g., all engineers or all bankers) can be dangerous.