Human beings tend to think we are pretty smart. Thankfully, we are typically correct. However, our ability to be capable, confident, high performers sometimes leads us to believe that anyone who thinks, acts or works differently may not be up to par. Who would want to work with someone who isn’t equally intelligent?

How can that attitude play out in the work place and when forming strong, cohesive teams? This story illustrates what I learned about diverse work styles and strengths. It completely changed my approach to team building, and maybe it will affect you similarly.

After weeks of planning, anticipating and strategizing, the time for our inaugural leadership conference had finally arrived. My assistant and I  had great speakers, wonderful activities and engaging presentations. She and I enjoyed great communication, shared vision and honest feedback. Some would say our working relationship was the stuff dreams were made of. We were sure our connection would help make our event a tremendous success.

My assistant was my first hire as a department head. I poured through resumes, labored through interviews and selected the person I thought would be a great fit to work with me. We were from the same town, went to some of the same schools and she saw many things the same way I did. She was, in fact, a lot like me. I soon found out she was probably too much like me.

As we reviewed the final details for the conference, neither of us could find the conference room booking information. We went through endless pieces of paper. We found speaker bios, conference mission and goal statements and hotel information, but no conference room booking details. We reached out to our hotel contact who said, “We don’t have a meeting room reserved for you. No one booked it.”

There we sat, with 25 conference attendees arriving in 4 hours and we didn’t have a meeting room for our two-day session. The hotel representative forwarded the email she sent asking that we confirm the room reservation and neither of us responded. In the midst of our big-picture thinking, we missed this one detail that proved to be a major hurdle. It didn’t matter what speaker or activity we booked, because we didn’t have a place for them to present.

As smart and capable as we thought we were, neither of us was great with details. We were wonderful big-picture, strategic thinkers, but didn’t excel at the day-to-day activities required to make the big picture a reality. I was self-aware regarding my strengths and opportunities, but I failed to hire a person who excelled in the skills I lacked. I was so concerned with getting along with my assistant, I ignored the most important part of building a team. A strong team must have members with diverse talents and work styles.

I learned people managers and team builders should strive to avoid hiring mocking birds that will only repeat what they do and say. You don’t want a mirror or “amen corner” of people who will tell you every idea you have (even the really bad ones) are great. Ideally, you’ll create a team full of different opinions, backgrounds, work styles and, most importantly, strengths! You want a team that is stronger than any individual member to work together to accomplish a mission.

The goal of a team isn’t to think and act alike, but to think and act together. If you are a strong thinker, hire a strong do-er. If you are a quiet person, hire someone who can be the question asker and departmental spokesperson. It may not make every day easy, but it will improve your end result.

The most successful team members recognize value in different approaches and different ideas. When it comes to teams, the old saying, “Different is good,” truly applies.


Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting works with organizations and individuals to help them on their quest towards professional excellence.  If you’re facing significant change, unprecedented growth or stagnant results Christy Pruitt-Haynes Consulting will help by providing customized tools to solve problems, increase employee engagement, improve leadership capabilities and increase profits. As a Speaker, Trainer and Coach Christy will provide diversity of thought, enhanced communication, improved leadership and a maximized corporate culture.  CPH Consulting will help grow your business!

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