Is Your All-star Team The Best Team?

Just having a team with stars do not make it successful. They all need to work together like a well oiled machine to be successful.

In arguably one of the best sports films ever – “Miracle”; Herb Brooks (played by Kurt Russell) chose 26 players ignoring far more talented and star players. In a conversation with his staff –

“Herb Brooks: Take a look at this.

Craig Patrick: What’s this?

Herb Brooks: 26 names. The tough part will be getting it down to 20 before the opening ceremonies.

Craig Patrick: This is the final roster? You’re kidding me, right? This is our first day, Herb. We’ve got a week of this. What about the advisory staff? Aren’t they supposed to have a say in this?

Herb Brooks: Not technically

Craig Patrick: You’re missing some of the best players.

Herb Brooks: I’m not looking for the best players, Craig. I’m looking for the right ones.”

Just a couple of years after the release of Miracle, during the 2006 World Championships in basketball, the dream team of NBA stars and super successful coaches finished shockingly third losing to Greece, who interestingly did not have a single NBA star. The sports journalists had a field day. Quite obviously, the headlines were not palatable to the stars from the USA.

The failure of all-star teams is not just restricted to sports but to businesses too. There are enough examples of companies with stars but end up falling and flopping for example – DeLorean Motors, Enron, Kodak and Polaroid some of the companies who had superstars but flopped miserably. 

These stars have been successful in earlier organizations and given their experience and success they should replicate their success but they don’t need to do. The reasons are multiple.

  • Lack of mutual trust and respect for one another

The moment the word star is used it is assumed that these people come with huge egos and a sense of self-aggrandizement. The reason for their bigger ego comes with the successes they have had. But with the ego comes a lack of trust in others – whether the others can do the job given or simply because the individual concerned thinks that he/ she is better than the other. Either way, since trust and respect for others, is missing, reciprocation from the other side is also difficult. Without trust and respect for one another, the team lacks a foundation on which relationships and, more importantly, organizations are built.

Building trust or respecting others is not difficult at all. Speak and act with maturity. Do not pull others down. Respect deadlines and stick to commitments. Very importantly do not be two-faced.

Once trust is broken it is very difficult to bring it back. Hence once trust and respect are developed between teammates, it is easier to reach the organizational goal. The focus of the team is not on individuals and their behaviours. 

  • Wanting all the attention to be focused on themselves

Superstars also like to be the cynosure of all eyes. And they would not like to share the limelight with anyone else. Grabbing this piece of the attention pie could cause a lot of friction.

Many superstars like to hog the limelight and tom-tom all the things they have done. When each individual was to do this at the cost of the other you can expect a team of selfish bickering individuals. The result will be expectedly miserable.

Everybody has a place in the organization and the sun. Give credit where it is due.

  • Improper complementary skills and chemistry

Just like Herb Brooks looked for the right players at the right positions, so too should be the requirement from an organizational perspective. When the right players are chosen, there is a balance in the team, which negates the negatives and provides a defence to weaknesses and also plays to their strengths. This criticality that should be addressed is that while the team may have a common goal, but the path taken by each person may be different and hence not complement each other. When paths to reach the goal are divergent disaster usually strikes.

It is important to know each team member’s strengths, weaknesses etc. This will help us understand the team better and complement each other. Team chemistry allows for trust and respect while all members continue to focus on accomplishing their individual and team goals.

  • Lack of shared responsibility and accountability 

Holding each individual or star accountable is the least to be expected. This will lead to each star following a path that is individualistic and pandering to his/ her personal goal, which may not be the same as the organizational goal. The sum of all individual goals does not add up to the organizational goal.

One of the biggest offenders is the phrase “It’s not my job.” Sitting in an ivory tower is not going to help matters.

The need is to hold each individual responsible for the other. Most functions are linked to each other and hence if one department does not meet its deadlines, then other departments will need to chip in. For example, if there is a stock out in a retail store, then not only should the SCM team be responsible but also the marketing and operations team. Additionally, performance bonuses can be a joint one rather than a department centric one.

  • Poor communication

Talk when you have to. Stars tend to sit in a cocoon and expect others to understand. Communicating internally is extremely important and studies have shown that ineffective communication is the root of most problems.

Eventually, it is the team, which needs to deliver, and not the individual alone. An organization does not deliver mutually exclusive goals rather a sum/ mix of all. At the end of the day, it is not about what individuals delivered but how a team has performed.

The task for stars is to take the “WE” approach. This leads to performance at optimum levels that are necessary for success. Focus on team success. Everyone loves to be a part of a successful venture. As the team begins to trust and respect each other, the process moves more smoothly.

A note of caution though, teamwork is about getting work done and it is not about getting along. If the stars can adapt to each other and get the work done, that should suffice.

Choosing the right people

But, how do you know if someone is “right”?

People make a business a success or a failure, hence getting the right people is important. And from experience getting the right people is not easy. We tend to get swayed by credentials and past successes.

Importance of properly identifying and selecting the right people is paramount. A commonly used term – Knowledge, Skills, and Ability (KSA) is used why creating job descriptions. However while organizations can identify people based on JDs, they do not do a good job of assessing behaviours. There are multiple tools/ assessments to measure this and it is for the HR team to leverage this.

Came across a very interesting equation which stated that

Right People = Right Position + Right Time + Right Things + Right Way

In other words, you know you have the right people when they are in the right positions at the right time doing the right things in the right way.

Right position = person has the appropriate skills and knowledge necessary to correctly perform the duties of the position

Right time = the person is in the right position at the right point in his or her career.

Right things= the person understands how to apply his or her skills most productively and efficiently.

Right way = the person is producing at the highest level possible in a manner consistent with the core values, beliefs and principles of the organization while achieving fulfilment

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