When I played soccer as a kid I played a lot. I practiced and practiced as everyone else was better! We’d be out in the evenings until after dark, when you could hardly see the ball, and in all weathers. I learned some powerful life lessons and one of them was that Tenacity can be more important than Talent.
In my first year as Captain of the school team, I passed this persistence for practice on to the team. We stayed late and ran hard. But there was one player who didn’t subscribe to this. He was a really talented player called Freddy. He was good for an average two goals a game, and in fact scored nearly all our goals. But there was a problem. He rarely turned up for practice. In addition, he was late for games and he never passed the ball. He didn’t feel the need to practice nor take advice.
Our coach let this behavior go unchecked. The second year we had a different football (soccer) coach and after a few games Mr. Evans asked me what I thought of Freddy as a player, I told him I thought he was brilliant and a match winner. He then asked me what the team and I thought about him as a person.
I was honest, (we tend to be when we are younger), and I told him he was a bad influence on the team as the players wanted to know what was so special about him that he could be late and miss practices and was greedy with the ball? As Captain, I felt it was having a negative effect on morale.
The coach asked me what we should do. I didn’t know. This was all new to me. He suggested we spoke to him and let him know there were these problems and if he couldn’t change, we would change him.
Freddy did not take the feedback well, and furthermore didn’t change, so we dropped him from the team. The team at first did not understand and we lost the next three games without him. But gradually, as we trained harder we all got better, we played better, we started winning again and we scored more goals as more of the team got to be in a position to score, denied to them before by Freddy.
I’ve seen this in business teams too. Not only do the stars drag morale down, but they drag effort down too as everyone knows they will not get a chance and so they leave it all to the “star”.
Lesson learned. It’s not always the most talent that can help us win at sport, business and life. We have to constantly work at it. Tenacity means we try harder for longer periods to improve in quality and quantity. And if someone is not committed to the common cause, in spite of incredible talent, they may be counter productive to the performance of rest of the team.
Peter M. Beaumont is the Founder and Principal of ConnXN. He is also the author of The Relationship Roadmap, a comprehensive guide to building relationships with strategic clients. Find out more at www.ConnXN.net