“Winning Ways” And Team Work

“A team should be an extension of the coach’s personality. My teams were arrogant and obnoxious.” – Al McGuire (former basketball coach)

In Dick Lyles’ book “Winning Ways,” a Ken Blanchard parable on success, Albert is hampered in business by his inability to work as a team member. His supervisor tells him to visit a local college football coach for advice. What he gets are four rules:

1. Make people feel stronger rather than weaker.

2. Team-built projects are better than those built by individuals.

3. Avoid right/wrong absolutist thinking.

4. Focus on building toward the future, not complaining about the past.

Like most self-help stuff on the market these days, “Winning Ways” has a dash of good insight, a cup of common sense, and a pot full of tepid water.

I believe in teams, but not the kind of team Dick Lyle and so many other success gurus talk about. Theirs is a kind of New Economy cooperative where all team members have an equal say and each idea is given equal air time. The way to get along as a member of such a team would be to do exactly what Lyle recommends here: Give everybody, every suggestion, and every interest all the support you can. Make everybody feel good. Make the process a pleasant one.

This is exactly what you don’t want to do.

The kind of team I like is one that has four to seven players and one coach. The coach is the boss, the undisputed top dog, the man who has ultimate power and whose experience, judgment, and motivations are beyond question.

Mine is a very different sort of team from the New Economy cooperative. On my team, loyalty and compliance are highly valued traits. On my team, there is a wrong way and a right way to do things.

The team concept is useful for business, but it is only one kind of business organization. It is not the most common kind, and it is not the most important. The primary business organization is hierarchical. One man on top, several men under him, several men under each of those, and so on.

There is a reason for this. Businesses are complicated affairs. You need lots of experience to run one properly. You also need experience to develop a profit instinct — and a profit instinct is absolutely critical to the success of any business.

The hierarchical organization puts a priority on experience and gives to those who have proven themselves the greater power.

The hierarchical structure is not primarily interested in reaching a consensus. Its main goal is to achieve an objective. It does so by placing authority where it belongs — with those who have experience.

Teams are good when you need to get something specific done by a particular time and you need the cooperation of a group of people to do so. But even then, you will do better if the team has a strong leader who will push and guide everyone to get the job done.