As a team grows there’s often a tough decision to make.

Maybe you got there from the performance of one or two star performers. But some stars stifle the development of the team. Do you humour the star or trust the team?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest footballers.

He’s won almost every prize. Yet, he appears to have often played for his own glory. In his prime it was still worth it to most teams.

At 37, he’s on the decline.

He rarely played for Manchester United this season and created so much drama they sacked him. On Tuesday he was dropped by the Portuguese national team and they stormed to a 6-1 victory. Including a hat trick from the player who took his place.

Yet, imagine the pressure on the Coach if he’d have benched his best player and lost.

This mirrors what can often happen in the development of a team. Where one person’s performance brings much greater results. However, at some point the price of their results comes at the expense of team performance.

One of the best places to look for team analogies is in military history.

When winning and losing is literally a matter of life and death, we see what really matters. Of course, the high stakes mean that not all lessons are transferable. Yet we can see how the concept of the team has evolved.

The Death Of The Hero

Epic stories tell the story of a hero.

We love the story of the hero rising to glory. The earliest tales give us heroes like Achilles, David and Goliath and so on. They were Champions from a time when (maybe) two Champions would represent their side to save the bloodshed of full armies fighting.

Today wars are fought by an army as a unit.

There is no hero, not even Rambo, who could outperform an army. Because the stakes are so high and the battle so wide-ranging one person can make little difference. As the field becomes more and more sophisticated it is the diversity of skills of a team that matters.

Stars Make You Good. Teams Make You Great

Heroes like Achilles and Ronaldo are driven for glory.

The glory is theirs though. So there’s a tipping point where indulging a star comes at the cost of the overall team performance. After that, anything that detracts from the team becomes counter-productive.

Stars are great for boosting performance level quickly.

But, real growth and stability comes when you can focus on raising the performance of the team. Eric Cantona was a star when he came to Manchester United. He’d been kicked out of most teams for being temperamental and disruptive.

Yet, Sir Alex Ferguson, knew how to get the most out of him.

He used him to add some magic to his under-performing team. But the real value was his work ethic and dedication that rubbed off on the younger players coming through. Ferguson benefitted from Cantona’s performances, but meanwhile he was levelling up the team. From then on, they had great players including a young Ronaldo, but it was all about the team performance.

The result was the most successful couple of decades in English football.

The key question is where is your team at in its evolution. Is your field still in the wild west early days or becoming more sophisticated? Do you need a quick boost from a star or is it time to build the framework for a team to level up?

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