bDiverse thought partners can make the difference between success and failure. This real life story demonstrates how and why.
Dinner, The Super Bowl, and Other Conversations
I had dinner on the outskirts of Boston this week with three former clients.
I met Nancy, Kevin, and John when all three worked for a high tech company headquartered in Silicon Valley. Let’s call the company Apex. I was hired as a consultant and executive coach 7 years ago to help transform the Apex culture. Nancy and Kevin, originally from Boston, have since moved on to other companies. John, who also grew up in Boston, as proven by an incredibly thick accent, recently retired from his role as Apex’s SVP of Engineering
We agreed before hand to dress in the “uniforms” we wore to watch the Super Bowl the evening before our dinner date.
Likewise our conversation started with a review, and joyous celebration, of Sunday night’s amazing victory.
We also celebrated another former member of Apex’s Boston office, who is now CEO of the company. “Great choice.” “He’s really grown as a leader.” “The board is thrilled with what he’s achieved in his first year.”
Diverse Thought Partners
We reflected on the former CEO, Thomas, and his inability to address the challenges APEX was facing. “The board made a good decision when they let him go.” We diagnosed, in retrospect, the underlying factors leading to Thomas’ failures and ultimate demise. John, the retired SVP, made a point that’s been echoing in my head ever since.
I got a great piece of advice from a consultant on the west coast. She told me never to get in a room alone with Ed to solve a problem. Ed and I think alike. We don’t necessarily agree but our thought processes are similar. I remember her words. “You’ll have a great time, and you’ll come out feeling high about the conversation you just had. But you will have made half-baked decisions, because of what you didn’t see or consider. In fact, you didn’t even know there was something else to be seen.” From that point on I sought diverse thought partners. It wasn’t always comfortable, but I’m grateful for the advice, because it made me a better leader. It also expanded my way of thinking. I can now ask, what am I missing? Sometimes I even find an answer.
Apex’s failed CEO had diverse thought partners on his team. He could have accessed them, but instead, he chose confidants and problem solving partners who thought just like he did. They were all data driven and super analytical. They trusted math, science and logic, which is not a problem, unless you exclude people dynamics, emotions, heart and intuition, which they did. There wasn’t a single diverse thought partner among them.