Teams beat individuals. We see this over and over again. Yesterday’s women’s NCAA basketball championship was one more shining example. Iowa’s Caitlin Clark is the highest scoring college basketball player of all time. She scored 30 points yesterday, including 18 in the first quarter. But South Carolina had the best team in the league, winning every game including the championship.

This was not an accident. South Carolina’s coach, Dawn Staley made it clear as she was building her team that those that wanted to be the league’s top scorers should not play for South Carolina. Those that wanted to win a national championship should.

Yesterday, Iowa dominated the start of the game, scoring the first 10 points and ending the first quarter up 27-20. But Iowa’s five starters couldn’t keep up with South Carolina’s nine player rotation after that, losing every other quarter and the game 87-75. South Carolina’s highest scorer, Freshman Tessa Johnson didn’t even start. Indeed, South Carolina’s bench scored 37 points. Iowa’s bench scored none.

Example 2: The Consultant’s Roller Coaster

Teams beat individuals. Ask anyone who’s ever ridden the consultant’s roller coaster.

When individuals start a consulting business, they start by selling. They sell and sell and sell rising up the hill until they are at capacity. Then they focus on delivering the work they sold at the top of the hill. That takes all their time. So, when the work is done, they have no sales pipeline, come back down the hill and have to start selling all over again.

The antidote is alliances, partners or teams. The best organized consultants keep 20% of their time for business development all the time, selling beyond their capacity and giving the extra work to their allies, partners or teammates.

Example 3: Harvard Class Curation

Teams beat individuals. Harvard could fill its class with high school class valedictorians. They don’t. They don’t want just the students with the highest grades. They don’t want the best all-around individuals. They want the best all-around class. They want a class with diverse interests and strengths so the students can learn from each other. They want great scholars and great leaders and great athletes and great activists.

Building Your Team

Teams beat individuals. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring the best all-around individuals. Build your team with individuals with differential strengths. Your team needs three types of leaders: artistic, scientific and interpersonal. You need different team members to rally the team, elevate the team’s thinking, and push for new approaches.

By definition, these people are going to have different strengths. Different individuals will have different innate talents, learned different knowledge, practiced different skills, gained different hard-won experience, and, in some cases, apprenticed to different people to absorb craft-level caring and sensibilities.

The other screaming lesson from South Carolina’s coach Dawn Staley is the power of going beyond the starting team. The implication for you is to go well beyond your direct reports, well beyond succession planning to building a broader team and a team of teams in line with Stanley McChrystal and Chris Fussell’s thinking.

Yes. Succession planning is important so you know who’s going to step in for your leaders over time. Contingency planning is important so you know who can step in at a moment’s notice. Future capability planning is important to help you create the team of the future.

At the same time, we’re talking about something different here. Let’s call it full team planning. Just like Dawn Staley went beyond her starting five to build a nine-person rotation, broaden your perspective on who’s on the first team.

Your direct reports need to consider their peers their first team and their own direct reports their second team. Your CFO needs think of themselves as a member of the executive team first, responding to peers requests first and think of themselves as the leader of the finance function second, responding to their requests second.

The deeper you can drive that thinking into the organization the better. Ideally, everyone in the organization and all your allies, partners and suppliers consider themselves part of your first team.

Of course you want the strongest individuals you can get. Makes sure you get individuals with diverse strengths. And them make sure they all believe that teams beat individuals.

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