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Sunday, 29 January 2012

High Performing Individuals? No-one is as Smart as All of Us!

The Italian historian, thinker and writer, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) said with great prescience:

“The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him”.

What was said in the 15th century has absolute resonance today in business.  The success of any leader and, by default, the business is not so much the quality of the leader as such, but the calibre of the people around the leader.

Perhaps the most difficult task of any leader is that of building a team which can operate both independently and collectively in the pursuit of success, and at the same time ensuring that the prima donna syndrome is suborned to the greater good of the team and the business.

It can take time and effort.  I recall one of my Vistage members hiring three different Finance Directors in a single  year until he found the right one.  It was painful and frustrating but well worth the effort.  The final choice was exactly what had been needed and spurred the business on to bigger and greater things.

I have in the past mentioned my old friend, Lee Thayer, another deep and brilliant thinker who used to say that everyone hired into the business needed to be a virtuoso and a free spirit.  Easy to say but very difficult to achieve.

At the same time Lee suggested that the first line in everyone’s role description should read:

“My primary task is to make this business the best in the industry by any measure

What a wonderful objective for anyone.

Another of my Vistage members changed his job and went to a company which, courageously, hired exceptionally high quality people and then found a slot for them in the organisation.

It worked very well with one proviso.  As each of the people hired was remarkable in some respect, they tended to prefer to work individually and not in a team.  That is fine if you are simply looking for high performing individuals but not so good for team building.

It is interesting to read recently that the universities are beginning to look at group activities, unusually in an environment which has historically been devoted to development of the individual.  They have realised that the team ethic is more productive overall than can be achieved by a single person and are now spending time and effort in its development.

As we say in Vistage:  “No-one is a smart as all of us”.


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Email ivan.goldberg@vistage.co.uk
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1 comment:

Steve Gilroy said...

What a fantastic piece Ivan. Several lessons for all of us...