Dee Hock, the founder and former CEO of the Visa credit card association said, “Never hire or promote in your own image. It is foolish to replace your strength. It is idiotic to replicate your weakness”.
I thought about how logical this seems and yet people continue to bring others along because they mimic their way of thinking. It’s natural for us to want to surround ourselves with people who align with our values and thought-processes because it takes less energy to stay within the comforts of our own likeness. Not only that, but it feels good to be validated.
The problem with no one questioning our beliefs or decisions can leave us with the fallacy that our way is the right way. We do it every day when it comes to our convictions. We believe something so strongly and we only expose ourselves to people and ideas that support our position as though that somehow proves that we are right.
This can be dangerous because there can be no growth or progress if we continually operate under the assumption that everyone else is wrong. We need to surround ourselves with people who will challenge us to question our own assumptions and beliefs. This doesn’t have to be under the guise of conflict; it can be respectful dissent and spirited debate.
When I was a sergeant, I worked for a lieutenant who couldn’t have been more different than me. His leadership style, his personality and his outlook on life were in stark contrast to mine. I was conducting roll call with the officers at the beginning of the shift and I noted him sitting in the back of the room as he did every day. He was a presence in the room not because of his rank, but because he was notorious for his unapproachable demeanor.
After roll call, I found myself sitting in his office after being summoned by him. He closed the door and proceeded to tell me that he “didn’t like the way I conducted roll call.” I must have had a look of confusion or disbelief because he followed up with, “I don’t like the ‘light’ atmosphere with the officers.”
I found his vantage point interesting. In my roll call, there was always friendly bantering and I tried to be participative instead of just talking “at” them. But like a good soldier, I nodded my head in agreement and from that point on, I vowed to be better.
For the next few weeks, I put on my “game face” – the face I usually reserved for the street when things were serious. I tried to be stern and “matter of fact” when delivering the information and giving out assignments so I could live up to the template he set. I must have succeeded because many officers inquired if there was something wrong. They said I wasn’t acting like “myself”.
I wasn’t. I worked up the nerve and marched into my lieutenant’s office and asked, “When I conduct roll call, am I getting the job done? Am I sharing information, training, and bulletins? Are my officers producing?”
He paused then answered, “Well, yes.”
I responded, “If it’s not my performance but my delivery, with all due respect, you cannot create me in your own image.” I went on to share my philosophy that the more positivity and laughter I can add to our environment, the better our officers will feel. I don’t know what kind of day they had before they walked into roll call and since our moods manifest into the way we treat the citizens, I’d rather they hit the street feeling happy instead of agitated.
It’s about results. The style we use to get the results we desire might be different for each of us and we should celebrate the differences and learn from them. Those who continue to believe different is wrong are an impediment to progress.
And that affects results.