Playing together as a team is the path to the best results. CEOs who don’t realize this will often get fired or just fail.
Source: Zach Shulman, Team, Team, Team
Do you remember Rory Sparrow? What about Corey Williams? Unless you’re a really serious Chicago Bulls fan (as you should be), you probably don’t remember these guys. Each of them played one championship season with Michael Jordan. Zach Shulman of Cayuga Venture Fund had a similar experience at the other end of the athletic spectrum from Michael. He won an over 40 soccer tournament based on the strength of an entire team, not just the ringer he recruited. Zach draws the parallel between his soccer team and startup teams. You need bench strength. Superstars don’t win championships by themselves. Michael didn’t. LeBron didn’t. One on five simply doesn’t work.
But Shulman makes a more important point: Sometimes you don’t need a superstar to win. A solid team working together can win without a star. He’s right, and not just about his soccer team. Business and life are full of examples of great team chemistry crushing superstar led teams. (quick detour – The Boys In the Boat is an amazing book about teamwork and the human spirit that you should read. It humbled me.)
At the same time Phil Jackson is arguably one of the greatest coaches of all time in any sport. Jackson built two amazing dynasties around superstars. How do you reconcile these two concepts of successful team building? Personally I don’t believe there’s one right approach to team building. However, as the founder and/or CEO of a startup, you have to pick a path: build around a superstar or build based on team chemistry. Both can succeed.
How do you pick the right approach? The first question, and the only one that really matters, is: “Do you have a superstar?” Not just a star, a superstar. Not always easy to determine this is it? Are you willing to bet the franchise on him/her? If so, you need to learn from Phil Jackson. Check out the chart below. Essentially Jackson built the team with three groups: Michael and Scottie, the core and the bench. Notice that only three players played in two championships with Michael and Scottie. There were two distinct core groups that played in three together. Everybody else was a bench player for a single season.
Massive volumes exist on team building, team dynamics, team management, etc. etc. The thing to remember is that magical team chemistry is just as hard to create as a superstar. Put another way, the 1984 USA Olympic hockey team is just as rare as Michael Jordan.
My point is simply that you must proactively chose an approach and recognize the challenges of each approach. You can win like Zach Shulman with team chemistry. You can win like Phil Jackson with a superstar. You cannot win if you don’t pick an approach and execute it well.
|B. J. Armstrong||3||x||x||x|
|Jo Jo English||1||x|
|Brian Williams (Bison Dele)||1||x|
Note that not all the players on this list were with the team at the end of the regular season, some were traded and other had short-time contracts. The list includes all the players on the roster that played at least one game for the Bulls.