Managing the 'Van Halen effect' in companies
Inder Sidhu is the senior vice president of strategy and planning for worldwide operations at Cisco. He is also the author of Doing Both: How Cisco Captures Today's Profits and Drives Tomorrow's Growth. Follow Inder on Twitter at @indersidhu.
Here's a blast from the past that might rock your world next year: Rock-and-roll hall-of-famers Van Halen are reportedly reuniting in 2011 with former front-man David Lee Roth for a new tour and album.
The last time the band recorded with Roth was 1984. Their collaboration produced the band's only chart-topping single, "Jump." A year after its release, however, Roth told brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen that he was ready to do just that.
The band's lead singer, Roth had developed an ego as big as his bleach-dyed hair. Believing he could achieve more success as a solo artist, he left the band in 1985 for movies, TV and more. But things didn't work out as planned. Although a superstar in his own right, Roth did not attain the success as a soloist that he did as a band member with Van Halen. And, no surprise, the band didn't reach the heights without Roth that it did with him.
Now older and wiser, Van Halen is reportedly together again. Like many entities, it's trying to make the most of its superstars and work cooperatively.
Sound familiar? It probably does if you've ever tried to manage a business, a sports team or, yes, even a rock band. If you have, you understand that organizations dominated by superstars can encounter a loss of unity and purpose, leading to internal strife. Without shared goals, individuals focus more on their own glory than on team pursuits.
Through his career in the NBA, 11-time All-Star Allen Iverson prioritized his achievements over those of his team, much to the chagrin of fans in Philadelphia, Detroit and other cities where the shooting guard played. Despite MVP performances, Iverson's individual style never produced a championship for his teams--or a permanent spot on any roster for himself. After wearing out his welcome in the NBA, Iverson had to go all the way to Turkey this season to find a team that would take him.
Fate isn't any kinder to those that value only the collective.
In environments where individual accomplishments aren't respected, new ideas are often smothered and groupthink frequently prevails. This can limit an organization just as much as a lack of teamwork. Take Nokia, which named a new CEO in September in part to overcome the complacency and risk aversion that took root inside the company. Recent reports have revealed that Nokia had a prototype of an Internet-capable, touch-screen phone years before Apple's iPhone debuted. Lacking a dynamic leader with the vision of Steve Jobs, however, Nokia's executives collectively agreed to kill the project rather than risk upending the status quo.
The lessons of Van Halen, Iverson and Nokia? Organizations need both high-achieving superstars and productive teams in order to prevail. And they can't allow one to compromise the other. As a manager, there are several things you can do to help achieve this.
Take teamwork. The first step to improving team cohesion is identifying a common objective that individual members can rally around. While this sounds basic, it often isn't. It requires creating clear expectations for each team member. These should be openly and frequently communicated so individuals understand exactly what is expected of them. Doing this will reduce overlap and eliminate confusion.
But it won't ensure that collaboration flourishes. For true success, a manager must go one step further and create an environment in which individual team members are encouraged to share insights and concerns alike. Teams benefit when individuals believe their input matters. They tend to work harder and achieve more. And because their morale is generally higher, they often collaborate better.
This is especially helpful in today's work environment where teams from different functions or business units are often asked to work together to solve broad problems. As any manager knows, getting people who do not report directly to you to work together is one of the most difficult tasks in business. But cross-functional collaboration can be achieved where both common objectives and collegial environments prevail.
But what about superstar development?
For all the benefits of teamwork, organizations need to develop superstars with equal enthusiasm. But too few do. Consider the results of a recent survey by the Corporate Executive Board. Despite the dreadful job market, one in four "high potential" workers plans to leave their employers this year, according to the study.
Top performers cite a poor relationship with their manager as the top reason they quit, according to Robert Half International. To keep them engaged, good managers must take a personal interest in the careers of their stars. They must also make sure their superstars are compensated for their unique contributions, even if it means paying a 20, 30 or even 40 percent premium for them.
Finally, smart managers need to understand that superstars can come from anywhere. So they must constantly encourage individual contributors to think beyond their current roles and consider longer horizons. To that end, they should provide training programs that help individuals expand their skill sets and develop new capabilities. Ultimately, they have to create an atmosphere in which people will see themselves both as loyal supporters who can perform tasks assigned to them and also as innovators who can disrupt the status quo.
With proper leadership, a leader can nurture both superstar performers and build productive teams--without compromising either. This requires rethinking performance metrics, incentive structures and resource allocations, which must be designed to build harmony, not friction, between individuals and teams. The same is true of an organization's culture: It must be structured to develop both equally. This is critical, because some initiatives require the passion, creativity, and quick thinking of a single individual, while others depend on the cross-functional skills and diverse resources of a collaborative team.
Superstar performers or winning teams? Organizational excellence, like music, depends on both. Just ask Van Halen.
December 13, 2010; 10:46 AM ET |
Save & Share:
Previous: Why we can't just inspect our way to safer food | Next: In a networked world, no longer controlling our own destinies
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: jobandon | December 22, 2010 3:49 AM
Posted by: educ8er | December 16, 2010 7:53 AM
Posted by: steve1231 | December 15, 2010 9:45 PM
Posted by: danw1 | December 15, 2010 12:08 PM
Posted by: taomka1 | December 15, 2010 9:55 AM
Posted by: musicsnob | December 14, 2010 7:11 PM
Posted by: mikald | December 14, 2010 1:46 PM
Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 14, 2010 12:27 PM
Posted by: PanhandleWilly | December 14, 2010 10:53 AM
Posted by: pejochum | December 14, 2010 8:46 AM
Posted by: maddogjts | December 14, 2010 8:41 AM
Posted by: TooManyPeople | December 14, 2010 8:31 AM
Posted by: D-bag | December 13, 2010 6:33 PM
Posted by: kname2 | December 13, 2010 4:36 PM
Posted by: kname2 | December 13, 2010 4:35 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.