To Build a Winning Team, Talent is Not Enough


Sometimes the team with the most talent loses. The 2006 Brazilian National team was the favorite to win the World Cup. They were touted as, potentially, the most talented soccer team ever assembled. Yet, the world favorite was eliminated during the quarter finals much to the disappointment of Brazilians worldwide, including yours truly. What happened? How can so much raw talent, experience, and stardom result in such a poor performance? While some blame Brazil’s coach, Parreira, most of us saw clearly the problem play itself out on the field: superstars who could not play together as a team. It was obvious that the players were more preoccupied in looking good individually than winning games together.

Individually, they were the best in the world; together, however, they were less than the sum total of their talents.

All the talent, pride and praise of Brazil’s “jogo bonito (translated, “the beautiful game”), could not make up for the lack of team spirit and camaraderie on the field. Individually, these guys were the best in the world at their individual positions; together, however, they were less than the sum of their talents.

As I build my team at The A Group and as I help my clients build their teams filled with top talent, I’m keenly aware that talent alone does not cut it. It never has. These days I hire on three levels: character, competence, and chemistry. Sure I want to hire the most honest and talented person I can find for the job, but not at the expense of the team chemistry. In the past few years, I have changed the way I interview for openings in my company. While each potential hire has to meet our toughest job standards, he or she will not become part of the team unless the chemistry is there–after all, we are a small collaborative group and even one odd person can change the entire team dynamics.

It has taken me a long time to learn this lesson. I wish I’d learned it sooner.  Talent alone does not cut it. It has never done it.  In last few years we have passed on some great talent because they were not a good “fit” for our creative and professional culture.

Have you seen talented people not make it in your line of work? What happened?

  • Paul

    Unfortunately I think I’m part of that team right now. We just can’t seem to get along. A lot of great talent but several of our key players try to upstage one another. It’s frustrating for the rest of us. We don’t care who gets the credit, but they obviously do. It’s undermining the success of our business. 

  • Robert P.

    I was part of a team led by a superstar ego maniac. He was good at what he did, but could not give credit or the spotlight for anyone else in the organization. Every great idea had to be his. I left and so did most of the people who were there with me. 

  • Often in churches we’re just trying to get the position filled.  “Well, he/she was the best person we could find at the time.”  Disaster waiting to happen!  Patience and willingness to wait for the right person are hard, but worth the cost.  Agree, character and competency are vital, but chemistry is HUGE for a successful team.

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