Last week I was running workshops at Saïd Business School at Oxford University and speaking about the importance of diversifying your network. A key point I was making was the power of having people who are not like you to challenge your ideas and offer different perspectives. I asked the participants to write down the names of five people who they would trust the most, either for guidance or support. I then asked them to rate each person on scale of 1-10 where ten is someone most like them in terms of six areas:
Age; Background; Education; Job; Interests and Lifestyle.
I then asked them to total up the scores and come up with an average out of 60.
The group’s scores ranged from 28-55. At the lower end of those groupings, between 28 and 35 I would say that there is a reasonable amount of diversity within that support group. But above 40 I would start to get concerned. People in that circle of trust would be too much like the person at the centre, providing similar ideas, experiences and perspective.
In order to grow you need to include people in your trusted network who are going to challenge you or throw out different ideas to yours. In a paper published by Saïd Business School, ‘The CEO Report‘, they state that ‘Doubts are to CEOs what nerves are to elite athletes: a source of focus and insight… one of the most important things is having people around you that tell you how wrong you are.”
Surrounding yourself with people just like you will restrict the flow of those challenging ideas and lead to complacency rather than peak performance.