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Team sports are unique. It takes a group of individuals to come together in order to accomplish a common goal. Each team is comprised of members that possess unique skill sets and other intangibles that make them best suited for certain positions within the team. The best teams are usually those able to identify the right person for each distinct role. However, a common phrase you will often hear to describe good, but not great teams is “they are too one-dimensional”. Whether the discrepancy lies in a particular skill set or strategy, the underlying imbalance can lead to a stagnant and predictable end result. This old adage is not only evident in sports but can also permeate through our lives, personally and professionally, if it is not addressed.
In the Harvard Business Review, Rob Cross and Robert Thomas wrote an article, “A Smarter Way to Network”, which addresses the issues of having a non-diverse network and ways to overcome this constraint in order to maximize our potential, personally and professionally. Cross and Thomas identified the following as a byproduct of a diverse network:
- Supports and challenges you
- Broadens your expertise
- Encourages you to learn new skill sets
- Motivates you to find your purpose and balance
Over the course of their research, Cross and Thomas have found executives who consistently rank in the top 20% of their companies in performance and well-being have diverse but select networks. As you reflect on the members of your network, can you confidently say you surround yourselves with individuals bringing a unique skill set or view to your personal and professional life?
- Analyze: Assess your current network. A great place to start is looking through the contacts in your phone or LinkedIn profile. See if your current “team” is too one-sided. Is it only made up of individuals from one industry? Is it dominated by individuals of the same gender, race or age? Or lopsided with only one group of individuals that all share the same life experiences? Remember, a good team doesn’t have players with the same skill sets playing every position.
- De-layer: Networking is a two-way street and if you find your professional relationships to be one-dimensional and consuming a lot of your time and energy, it may be best to create a healthy boundary in these instances. During this step, revisit Cross and Thomas’s four points above to see if they are present in your current relationships.
- Goals: Identify two short-term goals (able to be achieved in less than one year) and two long-term goals (able to be achieved in one to three years) that fulfill personal and professional objectives.
- Design: No different than a team crafting their roster for opening day, you want to invest in people and relationships that will give you the best opportunity to grow personally and professionally, moving you closer towards your goals.