I tend to refer to sports metaphors in many of my messages to help illustrate my point when looking at individuals’ potential job performance. And this time around is no different, so here I go again with my sports analogies.

My excuse is this: how can you talk about team development without referring to sports? Simply put, you can’t.

With spring training in full swing in March, we occasionally touch on individual baseball stars – the most valuable player, or that one individual who helped to secure a big game win. Invariably, we have to look closely at the teams as we develop our expert opinion on who will win the World Series next October.

No one player, be he a record-breaking home run hitter or and 20-game winner, can bring his team to the world championship on his own; the team must work collaboratively to get there. And regardless of whether they have a homerun hitter, a weak shortstop or an outfield that doesn’t communicate effectively could easily place a team in the second division, rather than pushing them through to the World Series.

This goes for corporate teams as well. For example, you might have a great salesperson working for you, but that individual may be reporting to an ineffective manager. Therefore, that salesperson’s success could be diminished due to a lack of communication, support, or coaching from above. Conversely, an effective Vice President of Marketing could be deemed unsuccessful if he or she has a team that does not possess the talent to support the company’s vision for growth.

What I’m suggesting is that you expand your focus when working with individuals and teams. Could it be that this salesperson isn’t performing well because his or her manager isn’t providing them with the necessary guidance? Or is it just an individual performance issue?

To understand exactly how a team functions and works together, it’s important to be fully aware of each individual’s strengths and areas of weakness. Furthermore, in order to understand how an individual can maximize his or her talents, that person’s team should be taken into consideration, to ensure that he or she has the support needed to be effective in that role.

One always relies on the other. You can’t have a team without the individual, and you can’t elevate an individual without the team. Individuals are rarely able to carry a group to victory on their own – whether in business or sports; it always takes a team effort.

Herb Greenberg, Ph.D.
Founder & CEO