The rites of late winter are upon us. The Superbowl is over. Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training soon. The days are getting longer, and warmer temps are with us more consistently here in southern California.

My Dodgers seemed primed for another stand-out year, especially with the recent addition of Mookie Betts to an already stacked lineup of A-listers. I can’t wait for the first “play ball” of the year!

On paper, the Dodgers appear playoff and world series bound yet again. Only the American League’s Yankees appear on par with them, and that’s potentially a stretch with the Yankee’s pitching rotation a bit suspect after top dog Gerrit Cole. Granted the boys in blue have been to the World Series two of the last three years, and came close to doing it again in 2019, so nothing’s for certain. But I can’t help but feel, after a more than 30-year World Series drought, that this is the year.


All these thoughts of spring training, the Betts trade, and the upcoming baseball season have me thinking about teams and team-building. The Dodgers certainly seem solid, top-to-bottom (especially after the trade), but is it enough? What makes a team successful?

In business, having a team of superstars is certainly desired—but is it always best? An article I was reading on ClearCompany’s blog the other day, Sometimes Superstars Don’t Make a Super Team, touches on this very topic. In it, the author writes that “individual performance is not necessarily an indication of team success.” I wholeheartedly agree. One person standing out does not necessarily mean the team succeeds.

In baseball, there are now 26 players on the active MLB roster on any given day. Sure, there are some players better than others, but all 26 players must be rowing in the same direction for the team to succeed. The same goes for a business team.

A business team of middling performers is likely to produce only middling results. Similarly, a team of one or two superstars might have an occasional “WOW” moment, but in the long run it’s likely to produce inconsistently. Like the old saying goes, “a machine is only as fast as its slowest cog,” the same proves true for teams.

In my experience, it’s better to have a well-rounded team of above average performers than it is to have a team featuring one or two superstars backed by a bunch of lesser performers. That’s not to say superstars aren’t desired, not at all. What you want most is for the drop-off from your top performers to the back of the roster NOT to be too steep. In other words, you don’t the difference in level of performance from the likes of Betts, Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager (and let’s not count out Clayton Kershaw), to drop off dramatically when you start getting down to lower-tier roster spots. Teams like the New England Patriots have built dynasties of such an approach: two or three superstars surrounded by a supporting cast of very good, near superstar players.


When building a team, you also don’t want your star performers all to excel at the same skill or area of expertise. It’s one thing for everyone in the lineup to hit 30 homeruns each (not likely), but if they can’t also run and are clogging the bases all the time, or striking out every other at bat, then scoring droughts are to be expected. Similarly, on a business team, if everyone’s good at ideating the big picture, but no one’s good at getting the actual work done, then performance will suffer.

A more well-rounded team, where people excel at different things that support the overall mission—such as multiple individuals being good at hits, homeruns, fielding, pitching, running the bases on a baseball team—is much more likely to avoid dry spells and perform with consistency over time. That’s a winning formula.


What kind of performers do you want on your team?

Here are a few areas where you can focus your attention to build your “better team” for 2020 and beyond:

  • Training and Development—Sometimes all someone needs is to be taught a new skill (or refine an old one) in order to be more effective in his or her role. Consider how your company spends its current training and development budget. (What? You don’t have a training and development budget? Well, that could be your problem right there!) It generally costs far more to recruit and train new talent than it does to improve existing human resources. It’s good practice to look inward for improvement opportunities before looking elsewhere.
  • Attracting Top Performers—The sports world is filled with teams that, for whatever reason, just can’t seem to attract the right players. Maybe it’s a case of geography, reputation, failure to pay top dollar, or a team culture that just isn’t what free agents are looking for. Do you know how your business appears to the outside world? What makes it attractive to potential all-stars? What makes it unattractive? Obviously, your objective should be to build a positive reputation sure to attract A-listers. Your brand is the sum or what you portray to consumers as well as to employees and prospective employees.
  • Retaining Talent—It’s one thing to get people to join your team or business, it’s another to keep them there. Aside from pay and benefits, there are numerous other attributes that make your business/team attractive so that people already on board want to remain. Similar to what attracts people to your business in the first place, these are items such as corporate culture, public/brand reputation, and areas such as career advancement opportunities and training and development. How do you compare to competitors?
  • Stretch Responsibilities—Employees can stagnate when they remain in the same roles for too long. In many larger companies, top performers often have the luxury of having numerous career advancement opportunities. In smaller companies, this isn’t always the case. That said, without changing jobs or positions, a person can have his or her responsibilities stretched from time to time so he or she is facing new challenges and flexing new skills. It’s what can make a job more interesting over time, provide incentive for improved performance, and it can also re-energize otherwise complacent employees.

What are you doing to attract, maintain, and continuously improve your team? Curious members of Monkeyz Nation want to know. Share your thoughts below.


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