There are some storied sports teams in history. New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, LA Lakers, Boston Red Sox, Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburg Penguins, Pittsburg Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, maybe Seattle Seahawks. Over the years these teams have been dynasties (we will wait and see with Seattle). Teams that seemed unstoppable. Players who were superhuman.
Except when they had an off game.
It happens. Turns out though that good coaches know that they only need 2/3 of their star players to be on top of things to win. Good coaches also know who they can count on to keep a team focused and their eyes on the big picture. Which brings me to the important question for you: Who on your team are the stars and who are the rocks to keep things steady when times are tough?
Even the best players have bad games, it’s the next game that matters
Think about Tom Brady and Payton Manning. These are guys who are pretty much the best quarterbacks around. Except for the last two games they played. Beyond the anguished cries of Broncos and Patriots fans everywhere, there is the truth that you can’t be on your “A” game all the time, stuff happens. In the middle of a season how a team brushes off a bad game is the key to how they will win the next one. This isn’t just locker room coach stuff, there is real science to the whole 2/3 of a team needed to win:HOW TEAMS REALLY WORK | More Intelligent Life. You don’t have to play on a sports team to apply this learning either. Look at how you build and support your teams. Who are the stars? Who are the leaders? Who are the anchors who carry people through the tough times? Now, how are you supporting all those people?
You can’t win over the negative people, you win over the people they influence
On your teams you have the people you count on to support your plans, run with the crazy ideas, and generally pull magic out of the hat on a regular basis. Then you have the people who would drag their feet leaving a building if you told them it was on fire. People who challenge everything you do, say, or propose. I’m betting you spend a lot of energy winning over those people? It’s a natural tendency. It’s trying to get a solid consensus within a team. From the How Teams Really Work article comes a bit of counterintuitive wisdom for you that might just make your life easier:
Stop trying to win those people over.
It’s a losing battle and you know it. The trick is to win over the people the negative team members tend to influence. Get those people on your side. Use your leaders, your anchors, your stars, and your own efforts to get them on side and excited about the team’s goals and plans. Remember, if you’ve got 2/3 of the team on side, you can win the game.
What if the 1/3 is essential?
When this that article was posted on the Team Performance Group on LinkedIn, there was a an important comment posted which said that it’s a pretty hard row to hoe if you have 1/3 of a team (especially a small team) not pulling their weight. Which is very true. And if that 1/3 includes people essential to a successful project, then what?
That’s when you have that critical moment all leaders and coaches face: frank honesty. You either get with the program and pull your weight or you get out of the way. Harsh? Oh yeah. True? You know it is. You know that sometimes you need to sit down with an employee and lay down the facts. You need to do your job, improve your performance, and be a contributing member of the team or you need to get out.
And it’s at that moment you’ll also know who on your team are the stars, leaders, and anchors. Because at that moment they will be standing behind you in support. In support of the team. In support of you.