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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
A.Sandeep Editor’s Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
The Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri


There is more IPL action happening on the front pages of newspapers than the sports pages. The controversies, the money spent on buying “super players”, $2.75 million on Kieron Pollard, $1.3 million on Shane Bond, got me intrigued. Does stacking your team with the best players guarantee success?

The myth of the Lone ranger
Personal leadership is the most studied, researched topic in American life. However romantic the idea of a larger than life individual working alone and accomplishing great things may sound, the fact remains – seldom can success be attributed to one individual. Most of the times, it’s not great men or great women, but great groups that have been responsible for success.

Great groups are formed not by putting extremely talented people together. In fact, talent alone can never result in success. The fact is that even Michelangelo worked with a group of 16 artists to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – one of his most famous works. The lone ranger can only achieve as much, while a great team can break all boundaries and even do the impossible. What makes a team truly great is the fact that they are bound to each other with a “Great Dream”.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning, working together is progress, achieving together is success.” The feeling of togetherness comes when you have a shared goal.

Last month, an interesting documentary hit the theaters. It was titled “Waking Sleeping Beauty”, by director Don Hahn. He explains the second coming of Disney studios, which had been left far behind after Pixar entered the business. Hahn, a Disney producer himself shows how the Magic Kingdom was staffed with the best talent in 1984 with young, very energetic & extremely creative people, yet, every production bombed. It took two great team players – Michael Eisner, and Jeffrey Katzenberg to turn this creative chaos into a movie-making powerhouse. Then in the 90s, due to ego clashes and various other reasons, they stopped playing as a team and the downward spiral started again. As Hahn himself says, “I can’t look at animation as anything other than a team sport”. This is true for most business – and good leaders know that.

A lot of us may feel we are good team players, for we are helpful, friendly and are actively involved in the happenings of the company. This is passive leadership. The real “team players” are those who not just bring out best in themselves, but have the knack to identify the true potential of their team members and charge them up and stimulate them so much that they go ahead and do the impossible.

Often, superstars come with ‘super egos’, but ‘super team leaders’ are ‘super ego mangers’ – and that’s what success is all about.

Cisco is one company that has learnt this lesson well and has changed its organisational culture. From days when ‘rock star’ leaders were compensated primarily on how much money their individual business units made, today the focus of Cisco is on a new programme where executives are judged on the basic of how to collectively reach group achievement and “shine everyone’s star”. The company is learning to work as one, and in the process has generated millions of dollars in savings and billions of dollars in new business. Of course, some ‘super stars’ left the company, but instead of losses, the company made profits. Just as a lot of superstars packed in a film does not guarantee its success at the box-office, similarly, a company of individual super achievers is not always successful. Think about it – the 2004 US Olympic basketball team consisted entirely of NBA stars. It finished third and lost to Lithuania! When coach Herb Brooks was choosing his hockey team, he left out some of the country’s greatest college players and shocked a lot of Americans. On being asked why the best players were left out, he said, “I’m not looking for the best players, I’m looking for the right players.”

When we recruit, that’s exactly what we should look for, since that’s the first step to building a great team and a great company. As Jim Collins says very lucidly in his book “Good to Great” – first, get the right people on the bus, wrong people off the bus and the right people in the right seat; then figure out where to drive. Before you decide the vision, mission, strategy, tactics and structure, decide on the people. Your company needs strong players and strong teams, not “one genius with a thousand helpers!” A great leader is one who has the guts to recruit people better than him & the capability to manage these people & keep them motivated. As Michael Jordan once said “Talent wins games, but team work and intelligence wins championships.”

The one place where the impact of a great team is felt and understood immediately is football. In three hours, you see the outcome of team work. Its not the teams with superstars like Beckham or Ronaldo that make you win, rather, it’s the players with a high sense of a camaraderie who make their teams win, Lionel Messi, the reigning World Player of the Year, scored a hat trick in 22 minutes and another one in the last 4 minutes, leading Barcelona into the European Champions league & defeating Arsenal. While many felt he was single hardly responsible for the 4-1 win, the man himself said and has always said this year after year: “This is a matter of all of us,… we all fought, …and luckily I scored the goals.” FIFA, one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar is happening this year – it would be interesting to once again witness how super teams and not super stars steal the show!

Everybody loves a good team
Great teams are based on similarity of spirit and diversity of strengths. It required the magnetic attraction of Thomas Edison to bring together a machinist, a Swiss clockmaker, a German glassblower and a trained mathematician to bring about a breakthrough. On October 22, 1879, the first bulb completed its first trial run of 14 hours. Yes a genius, but Edison never was the “lone inventor”, much like this young man & his team of four. They were called dropouts, artists, iconoclasts, even best friends. But this young man had the ability to unleash their limitless individual creativity, make them work 90 hours a week, for weeks at stunningly low pay and no one seemed to be bothered. They just wanted to make a gadget that would change the world. Steve Jobs and his team did so when they invented Mac – the first personal computer, much the same as Edison, who changed the world with his bulb. There’s an old African saying that goes – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. Winning teams in business or sports have proven this time and again.

A team of three best players at McCann Erickson debated & discussed a creative idea for days. Then, while taking a shower, one of them thought about a punch line that went like this – “Some things money can’t buy.” He rushed to his team & they debated over it that morning. By Sunday, they had chanced upon something “priceless”. Yes it was a team of three that made the most beautiful ad for Master Card. It’s the “priceless campaign” that helped Master Card defeat Visa – something it was unable to do for a long time. Great teams are priceless and everyone loves them. Remember the delightful team of Sherlock & Watson that we grew up reading about. The evergreen story of a team of five brothers - the Pandavas & how they defeated the mighty Kaurawas, or the adorable 3 idiots who not just set the box-office on fire, but set an example of how great teams can work in unison, both in-front & behind the cameras. No one was a ‘super star’ – each had a role clearly crafted which suited him, just the way one should build corporate or football teams!

In fact the “Green Bay Packers”, the American football team which was coached by the famous Vince Lombardi is so loved that today, if you want to buy tickets, you need to wait for over 30 years! Many in Green Bay put the names of their baby on the list as soon as the birth certificate comes. After all – everybody wants to be a part of a winning team – even if its just as a spectator.

So as we plan for the future, this new financial year, let’s look beyond profits, beyond targets, beyond superstars and hunt for super team players.

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