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A Culture of Sacrifice Breeds Success

June 3, 2011

By Michael B. Tatham, President, The Tatham Group

Do you ever think if only I had the right team composition winning would be much easier?

It’s something we all try to achieve.  Sports agents search for stars, corporations have departments of recruiters tasked to seek out talent and studios woo Hollywood icons all to build the best teams.  However we have all seen teams of stars that can’t seem to win.  It leaves me wondering, is raw talent enough?

Many NBA fans pass judgment on the Miami Heat for building a new team around three all-stars.  The big three.  In grade school we called this stacking the team.  The Heat coach, Spoelstra, was given a very difficult task with this young talent.  The press hype alone had the velocity to blow them off the path to success.  Are there too many stars and not enough workers? Will egos get in the way of success?

In the spirit of the NBA playoffs, and now finals, I want to share this article from Fast Company by Chuck Salter: What LeBron James And The Miami Heat Teach Us About Teamwork.  As Salter writes, “high-priced talent doesn’t ensure success”.  Rather “their mutual sacrifice is a resounding vote for teamwork.”  The stars knew when to put pride aside, to give as well as take, push through conflict and stay focused on common goals. 

What Spoelstra has done as their leader is no different than a CEO having retreats or team building exercises to help them focus and improve performance.   Instead of a conference room they worked through their dynamics on the hardwood.  The players sacrificed a higher salary in order to create a winning team.  Very similar to many Generation X/Y’s out there choosing challenging roles in start-ups with the promise of rapid growth and excitement.

Bonded by their competitive desire to win they find themselves in the NBA finals the first year playing together.  The big three knew it would take more than their individual stardom to succeed.  They needed to make personal sacrifices and compromise in order for the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts.

When you go back to work ask yourself if you are working for a company that has talent willing to sacrifice for the greater good of the entire team?  What would you give up in order to work in a high performing, team-oriented environment that wins?