It is so tempting to always hire people who seem just like me.  Someone who will fit right in and want to do everything the same way I want to do it.  So where is that line between selecting people who share aligned values and commitments, but also bring some new perspectives and experiences?   What is the optimal balance of commonality and diversity?

I re-learn all the time the value of diversity of thought.  Involving different types of people in the creative or development phase can be messy and time-consuming, but it tends to yield a better result – one that appeals to a broader range of people and gets them on board faster.

In the Let Go and Lead video segment called “On the Importance of Strong-Minded Team Members,” Patricia Harrison, CEO and President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, talks about choosing people who are like-minded and share her beliefs about the value of public media, yet have the confidence to challenge thinking and express their opinions.  Like-minded people who are strong, not “yes” people or clones.  She describes her team as having “intellectual arguments” and “disruptive conversations that lead to better ideas.”

And when she talked about how those strong people need to choose strong people for their teams (and so on and so on), I was immediately reminded of the Russian nesting dolls that sat on my desk for many years.  The red and yellow matryoshka dolls were a gift to everyone at Ogilvy & Mather when I worked there in the ‘90s – a tradition started by David Ogilvy decades earlier.  Inside the smallest doll you found a piece of paper that read:

“If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants.” – David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy was a giant himself in many ways and an outstanding leader who documented his thoughts with flair (read more here).

It takes a confident leader to surround oneself with people who are bigger, stronger, smarter, more capable and different.  It takes knowing your strengths and surrounding yourself with people who shore up your areas of weakness and bring additional strengths.  It takes letting go! And the stronger the team, the easier it is to let go.

I love that moment when a teammate adds a comment or perspective that takes an idea to the next level.  Why didn’t I think of that?  Oh, yah, because I don’t have the same background as that person and that’s why we are stronger as a team than as individuals.

What a great reminder from two great leaders.  Thank you, Patricia Harrison and David Ogilvy.