Every football team thinks that they are one player away from the Super Bowl. Usually a running back or QB. Baseball teams think that one more slugger or starting pitcher will put them over the top. But if you look at the rosters of the winning Super Bowl teams, you’ll see a lot more journeymen than Montanas and Elways. Indeed, how many players can you name on the NFC champion Seattle Seahawks? The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, not the Yankees or Red Sox.
And yet, twenty NBA teams expressed interest in Ron Artest who has lost the better part of the last two seasons because of bad behavior. Talented? Absolutely. But is he worth that much trouble? I don’t think so. How about Terrell Owens? A very talented bad boy. Do you think that some team (Denver is rumored) will swallow their common sense and sign him to a big contract? Of course they will. Because the myth of the superstar is still in vogue.
You want people to perform like stars without starting to think of themselves as a star. Letting someone act like a “star” within your company will lead to trouble. Stars often feel that they play by different rules than everyone else. They don’t have to come to meetings. They don’t have to be at their desk in the morning with the mortals. They may not even have to be nice to normal people. Stars often threaten to go “free agent” to get an even better deal. Along the way, they cause hard feelings among the rest of your team. Like the general manager of a sports team, it’s tempting to think that one sales person, one editor, one engineer can change the future of your company. But the truth is that those people are extremely rare.
The true heart of your business is it’s middle– the middle managers and the middle 60 percent of your employees. It has always been true that armies are really run by the sergeants. The same is true for your business. The managers, directors, and maybe VPs, are the ones who really run your business. You need to make sure that you have the best people you can in these jobs and make them all feel like star without letting them become prima donnas.
The other middle is the middle 60% of your employee base. They are the heart of your business. They show up every day. They want to do a good job. They just need to be managed well and to feel appreciated. You will have your stars. They’re great and they’ll always be great. But their efforts are often counterbalanced by your bottom performers. While you are worried about your stars and your slackers, it’s the middle group that does the work every day. Take some time to think about how you create a great work environment for those folks. How do you get them to give you their best efforts and stay in their jobs at your company for a long time?
It’s not your superstars that will take your company to the top. It’s the heart of your team.