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This week, the business press has been full of the news of the sudden departure of Harriet Green, CEO of Thomas Cook. By any measure, Harriet is one of the most successful CEOs of recent times – when she joined the ailing company in July 2012 its share price was hovering around 14p and it was making heavy losses. The day before Harriet’s departure was announced, the share price was ten times that level and the company had returned to profit (the share price fell by over 15% on the day the announcement was made).

On paper at least, it makes sense for Harriet to move on – she is a turnaround expert and has no travel or leisure industry experience, where her successor has spent his career in the sector. Even so, the announcement was alarmingly sudden, which is rarely the best way to announce a succession, so perhaps we haven’t yet heard the full story.

In the meantime, Harriet’s tenure as CEO is fascinating stuff for anyone interested in leadership, employee engagement and organisational culture. Turning a struggling company around so dramatically in such a short space of time is no mean feat, so it’s important to look at how she managed to do it.

For one thing, Harriet believes strongly in diversity. One of the first things she did on joining Thomas Cook was to replace the existing board almost entirely. Of the seven directors on the new board, three were women, and six different nationalities were represented on the executive committee. She didn’t do this because she feels strongly that there should be more women in the boardroom, but because she thinks that ‘groupthink’ has a strong tendency to hold companies back. “If everyone looks and sounds the same, went to the same schools and the same universities, go to the same country clubs and play on the same golf courses, you’ll get the same behaviour,” she said in an interview with The Guardian.

It’s tempting for leaders to surround themselves with people who think like they do and who agree with them on most things. But it’s often the worst thing that a leader can do. A team of people from different backgrounds, with different experiences and different perspectives can be extraordinarily valuable – bringing in new ideas, prompting fruitful discussion and sparking innovative thinking.

But that also comes with risks – building a strong team and corporate culture from a mix of very different people isn’t easy, but it can be done. At Space2BE we understand how important it is that everyone in your organisation – and particularly in high-performing teams – works well together to maximise their individual personal strengths. We’re extremely interested in the dynamics of how people work together, and how the right corporate culture helps to drive performance. Sometimes, our differences are more powerful than our similarities.

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

Stephen R Covey