Why The All-Star Top Team is Not the Answer!
Earlier this month, Fortune magazine contributors Geoff Colvin, Josh Dawsey and Sam Silverman unveiled an all-star, executive team. Similar to fantasy baseball, they put together a dream team of execs who could navigate the currents during these turbulent times. The premise is that in business just as in sports, human capital is the whole game. Better talent, they argue, is what is most important for success.
The CEO selected to lead this group of corporate all stars is CEO Ken Chenault of American Express, The COO is McDonald’s CEO, Jim Skinner. Other players to round out the line up include; Anne Mulcahy of Xerox, Jonathan Ive of Apple, Rob Carter of FedEx, Carlos Brito of Anheuser Busch InBev, Jim Stengel of P&G and Susan Chambers, chief people officer of Wal-Mart.
Put this crew of heavyweights on the field and watch them dominate any industry – like the 1927 NY Yankees.
Really, would that be true?
My suspicion is if you just pulled together this group of high priced talent and threw them on the proverbial business field, it would be a mess of the highest order.
There are plenty of examples where All Star teams faltered when competing against teams that may have had lesser talent individually, but when put together to work
as a team, had greater collective intelligence. Think Team USA in the World
Baseball Classic in 2006 losing to Korea, Canada and Mexico. The USA men’s basketball team of 2004 losing the gold medal to Argentina. And the French World Cup soccer team in 2010 that had so much dysfunction they were called out by President Nikolas Sarkozy and the country’s soccer federation was reorganized.
For a top team – or any business team – to succeed, the leader needs to put in place a number of conditions. Teams need great clarity. They need norms of expected behavior. They need their purpose defined, which issues they’ll address and how they will discuss them, raise and resolve conflict make and make decisions.
Great teams – like athletes – need to work on building their capabilities – both individually and collectively – such as how they give and receive feedback. They need to talk straight and collaborate collegially. They need not only the skill to perform as top athletes and a team; they need the will to do it, too. (Hint: many top individual executives have no will to truly work with others as team members if they can’t be the leader. And if that’s the case, they need to be removed from the team).
And great teams are committed to one another; they develop trust in one another and develop solid working relationships with one another. They have each other’s backs and know they can safely raise any issue.
The most important factor for any top team is the leader. If the leader doesn’t get it, and many don’t, about what’s required to a top team to thrive, the team will have an uphill battle to perform. The sad fact is that most top teams do not work well together and do not deliver the results they need to.
By creating clarity, building capabilities, and increasing commitment, the top team becomes more cohesive and supportive, able to perform at a higher level, sharing similar expectation of high individual and team performance. An extraordinary top team is a catalyst for winning in any market, which can be a very powerful competitive advantage that cannot be duplicated. Even by a group of business all stars.