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Superstars and Anchors

If you’re leading a senior team, it’s likely to contain individuals with different levels of experience, ability and engagement.

If we consider this as a spectrum, on the far left are those individuals that we’ll refer to as the Superstars. Just short of the other end, are those that we’ll call the Anchors.

Your Superstars are the ‘triple A’ achiever types. They’ve got a hugely impressive track record of delivering outstanding results in every team and organisation they’ve been part of. They are driven, highly competitive and will seemingly stop at nothing to achieve the goals that you’ve set them. We refer to them as ‘top-talent’, and as a result they command a high salary that may be significantly more than some of their peers.

The Anchors, on the other hand, are those that appear to hold us back. They may be reluctant to change or try different approaches, preferring to stick to what they know; the tried and tested approach of yesteryear. Not in every circumstance, but frequently enough to be noticeable to you and their colleagues. It’s likely that the Anchors are highly experienced and may well have been in the business for a long time. They may also be someone you’ve personally worked with over many, many years.

If we’re committed to developing our people and building a high-performing team, we tend to default to a number of standard approaches.

• Look to recruit and promote as many Superstars as possible to the senior team.
• Work with our Anchors to try to turn them into a Superstar.
• ‘Manage’ them out of our business (yes… It happens)
• Bury our head in the sand and ignore the fact that they’re not really performing and don’t really fit with the high-performance culture we’re trying to build. (yes… That happens too)

But a team of Superstars can quickly tear itself apart.

Research from Harvard Business School found that Boards that are able to function effectively as a team, have an 800% greater impact on firm profitability than any one well-qualified board director. So, just as Aristotle observed, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

It really is a better investment to focus relentlessly on working effectively as a team than recruit one ‘big hitter’ to come in and solve all your problems.

And if you’ve got multiple Superstars in your team, doing the deep work to understand how you can operate as a highly-effective unit becomes mission critical. Because if you don’t, the team will implode when the pressure mounts, as people focus on hitting their own targets in an attempt to maintain their own track record and reputation.

As and when you need help with your team, you know where I am.



No doubt you’re wondering why I said that the Anchors “are just short of the other end”?

Well, at the far right of the spectrum are The Saboteurs. They aren’t that common in teams, but they do exist. These are the individuals that have their own agenda. They may be directly and overtly disruptive or they may be operating in the shadows. The latter tend to demonstrate their support in joint meetings or one-on-one with you, but act very differently behind the scenes.

When we realise we have Saboteurs in our midst, we must act quickly and decisively before their negativity damages the organisation’s culture and performance.

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