Are the Players Running the Team? Time to Take Control!
In business you can learn many lessons from professional sports. The National Basketball Association (NBA) in particular is a sports league dominated by its superstars. If your team is lucky enough to have one, you have witnessed the breathtaking dominance that they display on a daily basis. These players control almost all aspects of the game and a teams wins and losses in the regular season are heavily dictated by their performance. However once the playoff and championship games come around they are forced to rely on the performance of their teammates. This is because opponents use tactics to neutralize the star. In turn, role players are counted on to contribute at a much higher level. In many cases the teams ultimate fate is determined by the contributions of the team as a whole. There have been many examples of championship caliber teams who were ill prepared for this situation and the outcome turns to disappointment.
How and why does this happen?
The coach has the responsibility to formulate a strategy to utilize the strengths of every member of the team. When the superstar deviates from a team plan and carries the team on his back and victory ensues, the coach has a tendency to step back and let the good times role. Although this may lead to short term success even the highest performers are human and go through frustrating periods. What will happen when challenges are faced and others are looked toward to carry the load? Is the team prepared to pivot? Probably not.
Although high performers are a nice perk for any team it is the responsibility of the leader to create and control the plan for long term success. The manager is the person with the obligation to envision all possible scenarios and have plan of attack to ensure success regardless of the personnel and their capabilities. The success and failure of the team is a reflection of your leadership. When outcomes are less positive than planned the high performers generally do have the mindset to sacrifice their individual success for the betterment of the team. The leader needs to take full control and responsibility. If the plan was not yours then you have failed in your number one responsibility.
The good news is that you can still gain control of your team. No doubt, it will be more challenging now that they have had the taste of artistic freedom but if they have experienced failure they should be more open-minded to a different approach. This time around it will be vital for you to manage the expectations and plans very carefully to make sure no one is deviating. That is not to say the plan should have no place for creative flexibility. The plan of attack must include space for for each member of the team to do what they do best just within the parameters defined in the approach. In the end regardless of win or lose, you can hold your head high that you led the way.