Stars and Teams

In all teams there are “star” players and there are “team” players. Both are essential to the success of a high performing team. Star players provide occasional moments of high intensity, energy and drive, where they can muster their single skills to overcome particularly difficult situations. The star players, however, are rarely “team” players. They are usually energized by the recognition of their individual accomplishments and usually have a hard time relinquishing control and delegating responsibility.

The “team” players, on the other hand, understand the value of collective strength and that the whole is, more often than not, greater than the sum of the parts. Team players will try to put everyone to work to achieve the best outcome. They are often overlooked as most attention is drawn to the star players, but are pivotal in consistently achieving results. They are usually the ones who create the conditions that allow star players to shine.

"I want employees who are ambitious, but not at the expense of everything else. It’s the ‘peacock’ issue: I don’t want 800 people saying, ‘Look at me.’ The employees I promote deliver results – and their colleagues want to work with them. An individual without the desire to enable colleagues is just that – an individual. Someone who’s passionate about helping others succeed is a leader."

Tracey Fellows, MD, Microsoft Australia

Here are a few of the personal characteristics I look for in candidates when I am building a team:

  • Reliable and accountable. Team players know that the team depends on each other, so they know that the other team members need to know they can count on them;
  • Committed. Team players are usually committed not only to their individual tasks but, most importantly, to the overall outcome;
  • Active Listener. Team players know how to listen. They know how to ask the right questions and how to engage in meaningful dialog without the need to “win” every argument;
  • Participative, shares openly and constructively. Team players intrinsically understand that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, so they proactively share knowledge and work constructively with others.
  • Cooperative, flexible. Team players easily adapt to changing conditions and usually take the initiative to cooperate with others to accomplish a task or help to solve problems;
  • Respectful and supportive. Above all, team players are respectful of other peoples’ opinions and of differing points of view not forcing their own ways or opinions on others. They influence, support and help to develop others. In time, I’ve seen many team members, who have exhibited several of these characteristics, take on bigger challenges and responsibilities and naturally become leadership figures within their own teams. The star players on those teams usually wanted to move on to become bigger and better star players on other teams.
    An interesting observation is that team players who excel at being team players, often become star players themselves,by exercising leadership skills like active listening or delegation, while still retaining their team player characteristics.My observations and personal experience suggest that people who are able to walk this fine line greatly accelerate their personal growth and career development.
    Consider, for a moment, how others see you and what behavior you exhibit in your relationships with co-workers and team mates. Are you a bright and shinning star on the rise or are you a solid and grounded team player? What do you value the most? The recognition of your individual accomplishments or the recognition of the accomplished job?

The Art Of Delegation

Check out the new article on Delegation in the articles section.

Topics discussed in the article include:

  • The Importance of delegation as a leadership tool
  • Common blockers to delegation
  • Choosing what to delegate and to whom
  • How to delegate effectively and productively
  • The inherent value of delegation for the individuals and the organization

Share your own thoughts and experiences on this article. How do you handle delegation? How do you choose someone to delegate work to? How do you reward a successful job?

The Eisenhower Method

I’ve published a new document with my ideas and experience on the Eisenhower Method of task prioritization and how I use it to leverage David Allen’s GTD framework.

Feel free to comment and provide feedback and your own views or experiences on the subject.

Finding Simplicity

There is a fairly well-known principle called “Occam’s Razor”. This principle is also often called the Law of Parsimony, the Law of Economy or the Law of Succinctness, either of which have, to me, a Zen-like ring to it. If we look for the definition of this principle we quickly find that it is stated in a number of different ways. The most common, however, is the following:

Of two equivalent theories or explanations, all other things being equal, the simpler one is to be preferred.

Actually the first time I ever came across this law, was in a Sherlock Holmes novel titled “The Sign of the Four”. The actual quote from the book is the following:

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Any student of information theory knows how chaos and entropy are an intrinsic part of our lives. Complexity tends to grow exponentially with every communication channel, with every task, with every dependency in our daily lives.

As the external environment of our lives becomes increasingly complex, it is also increasingly important to find simplicity in our daily activities.

There are numerous examples, from various fields that lend themselves to support the idea that simplicity is a key element for robust, lasting solutions to many problems.

In mathematics and physics, complex problems are often reduced to simple, elegant solutions. In architecture, simplicity and removal of superfluous design elements are the basis for minimalist design, which has been highly influenced by japanese traditional design and was popularized by the works of Mies van der Rohe (who adopted the motto “Less is More”), and other contemporary artists like Tadao Ando, Eduardo Souto Moura or Álvaro Siza Vieira. In visual arts, artists like Piet Mondrian have contributed to the popularization of simplicity and minimalism as an art form.

One curious counter example is the “Rube-Goldberg Machine”, which is an extraordinarily over-engineered and (unnecessarily) complex device designed to produce a rather simple or useless task.

To help me address complexity in time management, for instance, I usually rely on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) method. I find that it is a simple way to help me reduce the, often overwhelming, complexity in my daily activities. Another method I like to use to prioritize tasks is the Eisenhower method. I consider both of these methods the Occam’s Razor approach to time management and task prioritization.

After giving it some thought (yes I really do stay up late thinking about these things) I’ve come to realize that Occam’s Razor is so pervasive that I should probably consider it a life design principle.

So here’s my current line of thought on Parsimony as a basic life principle.

  1. Life is complex
  2. We are overwhelmed by complexity because it’s hard to determine the impact of multiple choices
  3. Reducing complex problems to fundamental and simpler choices enables us to address complex issues
  4. Remove superfluous elements from the equation
  5. When faced with the most elementary, indivisible choice, the simpler one will usually be the best choice.

Here’s how I can rephrase it to make it applicable:

When faced with a complex decision, eliminate the impossible, and from the remaining options the simpler one, however improbable, will usually prove to be the best one.

%d bloggers like this: