“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.” – George Patton
Not that long ago I was visiting with a local business owner, one we’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years. Eventually our conversation ended up on the topic of his management team. He got really excited talking about how great they were, how long they’ve been together, how much success they’ve had, etc. What he was most excited about, though, was how after all these years, they never have any arguments because they all think alike.
For starters, it’s debatable how much success his business has had, but that’s not really the point. The point is, I don’t think you can classify any group as successful just because they agree on everything. In fact, when it comes to measuring the performance of a management group, I think agreement on everything probably leads to less success.
How does your team function? Does everybody think similarly about every issue? If they do, I think you have a problem. I’m not suggesting that every issue that comes up should be turning into a fistfight (although that’s really a conflict management problem, not a strategy development problem). What I’m suggesting is that if your management team sessions always go smoothly without a lot of debate, something’s wrong in your business.
Think about your management team. Do you have diverse personalities? We’re all generally more comfortable with people who look and think and act like we do. Have you let that comfort dictate membership on the team? If you’re the leader, and everybody on your management team is alike, and there isn’t much healthy conflict, then you need to rethink how people end up on the management team.
Or maybe the problem is you. The way you as a leader handle disagreement has a big impact on how much people are willing to disagree. Are you a dictator? Do you push aside/insult/criticize ideas that don’t match up with yours? Don’t mistake “We’re afraid to fight” for “We agree”. Sometimes people have learned over time that advancing dissenting opinions is just not worth it.
Give some thought to your team members. Are they all alike? If they are, and if they don’t have anything unique to offer, then why are they there? Are there others in your organization who look at the world a little differently who might bring a spark? Make sure that the group that’s responsible for setting the direction and strategy of your business isn’t limiting their options by their similarity. Make sure they’re not thinking alike.