A group of 12 young men, high school age have just completed a strenuous basketball practice. The coach has asked them to join him in his class room to discuss the upcoming season. He’s a new coach this year, although he has many years of experience. He asks the team what place they expect to finish in the conference noting that this is a team sport and it’s important the team has a goal to shoot for. He asks everyone to write down their expected finish, and then collects the results. The votes are counted. Ten voted for first place, 2 for second.
What place do you think the team finished?
If you said second you’re right. The account is from my senior season of high school basketball. What does that tell you about the importance of having the right people on the bus? Our team had steadily improved the previous two seasons. When I was a sophomore the varsity basketball team hadn’t won in 36 games. Our team largely composed of sophomores won two games that season and finished 2 – 17. The next season we improved to 12-7. We were a confident team going into our senior year. As a junior I recall playing in the final game of the regular season against a team who was battling us for 3rd place in our conference. In addition to this battle, I was in a close contest with one of their players for the scoring title in the conference. I recall two of our players telling me before that game not to worry, they would make sure this player didn’t score so not only would we win the game they’d make sure I’d win the conference scoring title. That’s the kind of players you want on your team, people willing to sacrifice for the good of others and the team.
Consider your team, especially your executive team. Who on your team believes you can achieve your goals and priorities and who would settle for second place? It’s been said you are only as good as your weakest link. Do you believe everyone on your team has the same level of commitment to your priorities? Are you willing to bet everything on achieving your goals for the future on the team you presently have?
Jim Collins in How the Mighty Fall indicates that team members on the way up unify behind a decision once made and work to make the decision succeed, even if they vigorously disagreed with the decision. In contrast Collins notes those team members on the way down acquiesce to decisions yet do not unify to make the decision successful, or worse, undermine the decision after the fact. Our basketball coach didn’t know the significance of this. We debated the finish; however there was never a discussion to unify the decision to reach for first place. We never discussed what we had to do to win the conference. There was never a resolution.
The smaller your team the more important it is to have the right set of achievers. Our group was just 12 individuals. Yet two were able to lower the standard for the entire group. Are you willing to allow that to happen? People are not your most important asset, the right people are. Do you have the right people on your bus to get to your destination?