I once had a colleague — we’ll call her Jane — who possessed a permanent “Lemon Face” upon her visage. You know the type: always walking around appearing as if having just finished sucking on a lemon. Although smart and capable, I was convinced she’d practiced that permanent scowl in the mirror every morning before heading to work.
So one day, after spotting a recently hired employee, I went over to introduce myself; and was greeted with the same exact expression – Lemon Face! Yikes. I immediately grinned, saying, “Pleased to meet you — you were hired by Jane, correct?”
She must’ve thought I was clairvoyant. “Yes,” she replied, somewhat surprised, “How did you know?”
“Oh, just a lucky guess …”
The sad reality about recruiting is that managers tend to hire copies of themselves, rather than finding team members who can backfill blind spots and shortcomings.
Simply put, while hiring, we all subconsciously choose clones of ourselves.
Hiring clones does have advantages. People naturally gravitate to those who share similar backgrounds and personalities. We understand and can relate to them. We think the same way and communicate in similar terms, which can reduce friction. In our minds, no one is better suited to accomplish a task than us, so why not just duplicate ourselves for twice the productivity!
The end result? Entire company divisions with a narrow-minded culture: the same limited thinking, self-imposed restrictions and dysfunctional quirks. Ultimately we create an inbred, cloistered unit that can’t grow or think outside the box.
Most companies have, over time, developed these incestuous, short-sighted business units. And like inbred livestock, they become stunted and unhealthy. Once these problems become visible, few realize that the stagnant culture wasn’t necessarily caused by bad management, but by long-term poor hiring choices. These hire-by-clone strategies tend to work fine in the short term, but eventually dysfunction sets in, often discovered too late.
Like Michael Keaton in the movie “Multiplicity,” top leaders hire strong clones of themselves; then those clones hire clones of themselves, and so on — degraded copies of copies. Ultimately the business unit is rampant with layers of clones that get progressively worse down the line: B players will hire C players; C players will hire D players, etc.
So take the hard path. Stop hiring the first person you’d like to have a beer with. Instead find the person with strengths that bolster your weaknesses. If you’re a sober, serious-minded individual, hire a free spirit with charm and finesse. Are you passive and humble? Hire a decisive, bold thinker. Like a smart coach, fill your bench with players who compliment and challenge each other. Look for future leaders who speak different languages (literally and figuratively) and can make connections that build a more powerful whole. Unique pros will help your business think differently and tackle problems in ways you hadn’t yet discovered.
Make no mistake — hiring clones can create a monolithic and harmonious group. In the short term there will be less conflict and drama. But in the long term, a more diverse squad — if they can learn to work as a team through mutual respect and a unified goal — will be stronger, smarter and healthier. They will learn different ways of thinking; they will be nimble and will adapt to survive challenges. They will teach you things you didn’t know that you didn’t know.
On the small Washington state farm I grew up on, the phrase “Hybrid Vigor” was common parlance. It’s an animal husbandry term used to identify livestock whose immune system and health were strengthened by combining different but compatible breeds to create a more powerful successor. Crossbred animals are often easy to spot, because they’re visibly active and vibrant. They have “Hybrid Vigor.”
Learn to look past the mirror when seeking potential candidates in your organization. Compatibility with your culture is important, but find those who bring something new, a unique viewpoint that your business doesn’t have. Allow new blood to challenge the status quo and then encourage them to thrive instead of conforming to the old ways. Don’t allow your culture to transform a fresh perspective into a mind-numbed copy.
Ultimately, your creative, well-rounded team will be able to defeat any onslaught from mediocre clones.
Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 25 years in the Powersports Industry, currently serving as Vice-President of Eaglerider Motorcycles (http://www.eaglerider.com). Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer, publisher, or clients. Although Chris is So-Cal through and through, he never forgets lessons from the farm. Visit www.chrisclovis.com for more information.