On working with like-minded people

I’ve long believed that having like-minded people around makes our lives much more bearable, personally and professionally. Although, I would err on the side of moderation, especially if you care about a high-performance culture at the workplace.

If that sounds odd, hear me out because you’re either confused or are pretty comfortable in your current setup. It just works for you as the people around you understand and respect you. You might even treat them like (or feel like you’re working with your) family!

All that’s great; what you must understand, however, is how a business performs has nothing to do with the kind of people you have in the company but the kind of relationships you have with them, despite the individual differences. So, as much as being comfortable is significant, consider evaluating your relationships with your peers. Is it based on mutual understanding and respecting each other’s differences? Or it is because they’re just like you in more ways than one?

A great way to evaluate this is by paying attention to your team’s dynamics. How many people have been part of this over the past 18-24 months? How does the group at large (particularly the older members) feel about, the newer members of the team? Are the new team members adjusting well to the culture? If yes, how do you know that?

Over the long term, one must pay attention to the team dynamics, particularly with the newer team members. If you have cases where people haven’t made it beyond 3-6 months, or there’s some conflict or tension between older and newer members, consider the key factors contributing to these challenges. Are these people not “getting your culture?”

Most newbies take time to adapt to new workplace culture. And things get worse when they realise that everyone in the team speaks the same language, thinks in the same direction, and seems like a tight-knit family. They feel alienated despite your best intentions. Adjusting to a new family is hard, hard work. Ask a person who’s newly married. Or a foster child.

The onus is on the team manager to understand these dynamics and accordingly set expectations with the team. They should go the extra mile to introduce diversity in the group, not just in terms of gender, race, or orientation but also in how they think and, most importantly, values. Failing to ignore this aspect often results in attrition, unnecessary tension and conflict, which is a massive time suck.

What you don’t want in a team is a set of “oldies” who’re constantly griping about the “newer kids” who don’t understand the culture or the business. Because there’s a high likelihood that the oldies have got it all wrong, maybe they are not “getting it.” And because they’re too comfortable in the “family business” they’ve put together, they don’t want to adapt to the changing dynamics of the team.

An antidote to this can be a systematic intervention where every employee gets to change teams every 36 to 48 months, with no exceptions. Sure, it can be unsettling, but that’s the surest way to put them into uncomfortable situations and help them develop people skills that will last a lifetime.

The worst a business can do is grow a team of “lifers” who act like a cult, having their secret code, language, and a set of values that alienate other talented individuals and groups. That’s not high-performance, but highly delusional!

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