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Nobody’s Perfect but A Team Can Come Close

There are very few tricks left for improving the business performance of an organisation in the management deck of cards. In recent years, many eager corporate hands have played the organizational redesign card; others, strategic planning; still others, value-based management. What remains however – the trump card – is the effort to coax exceptional levels of performance from all the pieces now in place. That means learning how to reinvent, build, manage and lead world-class, “high-performance” teams in today’s rapidly changing business landscape.
In the pursuit of management excellence companies almost exclusively search for the “right individuals”; hence a preoccupation with the qualifications, experience and achievements of individuals. Even when it comes to entrepreneurship, popular thinking supports the notions of the sole innovator: Henry Ford, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the like. I argue that popular thinking is wrong.
Successful companies are started, grown, and made successful by a team of individuals. I agree that one person may come to be recognised as the “innovator”, but it does take a team of good people to make any enterprise work. In an organisational context, I argue that the “ideal” or “right” individual for a given job cannot be found because such individuals do not exist. This radical statement can be demonstrated by attempting to list the qualities of a good manager, and finding that far too many of those qualities are mutually exclusive.
The “right” person must be highly intelligent and yet not be too clever. The “right” person must be assertive yet sensitive to people’s feelings; dynamic and patient; a fluent communicator and a good listener; decisive and reflective; and so on.
In an entrepreneurial context one also finds mutually exclusive qualities. The “right” entrepreneur must be able to thrive on ambiguity and yet be a calculated risk taker. The “right” entrepreneur must be self-confident and persuasive and yet not have an overinflated ego; have low support needs and yet be a team player; and so on. Should it happen that you do find this “perfect individual” among managers and entrepreneurs – this archetype of mutually incompatible characteristics – a nagging question looms: what happens when he or she leaves or retires?
When it comes to pursuing management or entrepreneurial excellence, I argue for a shift in orientation from the individual to the team. If no individual can be a 100% combination of all these qualities, a team of individuals certainly can, or at least come close. It is also unlikely that the whole team leaves the employ of the company simultaneously.
It is not the individual but the team that is the driver of sustained and long-term success in management and business. A team can renew and regenerate itself with new recruits as individual members leave or retire, and it can find within itself all those conflicting characteristics that cannot be converged in any single individual. It can also be in more than one place at the same time. We have also seen teams produce a quality and quantity of work far greater than the sum of what the separate individuals could have produced on their own. In addition, AI team management software today simplifies team complexities and generates superior team effectiveness like the Intégro Learning’s ‘TeamingExcel’ ® operating software system package.
Many of us have perceived something of the truth about teams from our own experience. We know how often someone who has been highly successful within a team becomes a great disappointment when moved out of it. We have seen effective teams destroyed by the promotion of individuals, without anyone ever considering the alternative of promoting the whole team, or enlarging its scope and responsibility.
While not ignoring or neglecting the individual, we should devote far more thought to teams: to their selection, development and training; to their qualifications, experience and achievements; and above all to their psychology, motivation, composition and behaviour. The late Jeffry Timmons said: “An individual makes a living; a team builds an organisation”
Sources: Johan Cronje, Specialist Team Coach of Intégro Learning SA; Dr Cobus Oosthuizen (BCom, MBA, PhD) Director; Faculty of Management & Leadership; Milpark Business School