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Challenging the Status Quo: How the Best Team Always Wins
Mental Models, Performance, Business & Entrepreneurship | newsletter.scottdclary.com
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Challenging the Status Quo: How the Best Team Always Wins
There’s a saying in sports: the best team doesn’t always win. It usually is preceded by an all-time great regular season that has just crashed down to earth in the playoffs or a young upstart shocking everyone with an unexpected performance.
Lionel Messi, one of the greatest footballers in history, put it this way:
“The best team doesn’t always win the Champions League. You have to pay attention to all the small details. The strong teams are the ones that achieve their goals.”
There are a lot of things that translate between the sports and business worlds. Competition is competition. But the more I think about this idea, the less I believe it.
In my experience, the best teams do always win in business.
I think it’s because building a company or innovating in a new space isn’t just a single game or season. While luck still exists, it is a much more insignificant part of entrepreneurship. An elite team will find a way to get there in the end.
People, Government, and the Trust Principle
I had the chance to sit down with Keith Krach for the Success Story podcast, to discuss his unique career that has taken him from manufacturing, to tech, to diplomacy and back.
He was nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the U.S. State Department, helping develop foreign economic policy and battling Chinese interference.
He reiterated this idea of building the best team. When he got to Washington, he immediately looked outside of the regular political sphere to fill his office. Instead, bright minds from Silicon Valley and elsewhere were brought in to make a more well-rounded group.
“The company with the best people wins,” Keith told me, only furthering what I had already been thinking about lately. He even pointed out that while being nominated for a Nobel Prize was obviously an honor, it was his team that deserved the credit.
Trust Over Power
Discussing foreign policy and world economic power struggles is a bit out of my realm of expertise. But one thing that I found incredibly interesting was Keith’s creation of the “Trust Principle.”
In his case, it was used by the U.S. government to establish better relations with Taiwan, help battle China’s attempt to monopolize 5G communication and create a better telecommunication network between the biggest economic nations in the world.
But there is an interesting entrepreneurial view of it too.
Basically, the point is that we are more likely to do business with someone that we trust than someone exhibiting the most power. It focuses on:
In my view, this is the blueprint for team and network building. These five things should be the basis of all business connections, whether hiring an entry-level employee or partnering with a multinational corporation.
Let’s get a little deeper into what each represents.
Integrity is the foundation of trust in any relationship, be it personal or professional. In the business world, integrity means consistently adhering to a set of moral and ethical principles. It involves honesty, fairness, and the ability to make the right decisions, even when no one is watching.
For a team or a network to function effectively, each member must exhibit strong integrity, as it fosters trust and confidence in their capabilities and actions.
Accountability is the willingness to own one's actions, decisions, and consequences. In a team or business partnership, members must be responsible for their roles and deliver on commitments.
This includes being answerable for any errors or shortcomings, learning from them, and taking corrective action where necessary. Accountability strengthens the trust between team members and associates, as it shows reliability and commitment to the organization's overall success.
Reciprocity is the act of mutual exchange, where each party benefits from the relationship. In a business context, it means supporting each other’s goals and working together to achieve success.
This may involve sharing resources, ideas, and knowledge. Reciprocity fosters trust by creating an environment where everyone feels valued and recognized for their contributions. By recognizing and appreciating
Transparency involves open and honest communication, as well as the willingness to share information, both positive and negative, that might impact the team or partnership.
Transparent decision-making and communication processes allow everyone to understand expectations, progress, and potential challenges clearly. Transparency fosters trust, eliminating hidden agendas and ensuring that all team members and partners are working toward the same vision and goals.
Respect is essential for building trust in any relationship, as it demonstrates recognition of each party's worth, value, and opinions. This means treating each team member and partner fairly, listening to their ideas and feedback, and acknowledging their contributions, regardless of their position or hierarchy.
When people feel respected, they are more likely to trust their colleagues and collaborators, which in turn promotes a more collaborative and harmonious working environment.
Spotting Paradigm Shifts
While those five characteristics are an excellent start, I can’t help but add a sixth of my own: adaptability.
Even that can be broken down further into two things that I think every high-performing team has:
The ability to embrace change
The ability to see change coming
The first part is a lot easier than the second. You can foster growth in the company, supporting teammates as they take on new challenges, push their boundaries, and elevate their skill levels.
But the second, predicting the need for change is a whole other ballgame—just ask companies like Blockbuster, Kodak, or Borders.
Nothing is more important than staying ahead of the technological curve. That doesn’t mean you must necessarily incorporate every advancement into your business, but you better know what the rest of the market is doing.
Every piece of content marketing right now has “leverage automation and AI” somewhere. The winners, those teams that always find themselves on top, aren’t following that advice—they’re the reason it exists.
Innovate or die.
If a smaller company in your industry deals with way bigger margins, gets far more engagement, or spends a ton less on marketing, don’t chalk it up to luck or good fortune.
Find out what they’re doing, who is doing it, and why it is being done. Embrace and celebrate those outliers, as they could indicate the larger market trends.
True paradigm shifts usually follow (or are followed by) massive political change. Stay informed about upcoming legislation, policy changes, and other factors affecting your industry by regularly tracking the political and regulatory landscape.
Don’t Change, Do the Changing
“You cannot predict the future. But you can create it.” – Peter Drucker
The famous quote, often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln, is especially poignant here. But it is so well known that you might have rolled your eyes just now. Instead, why don’t we circle back to the sports connection at the beginning of the article?
How about: “The best defense is a good offense.” Well, it turns out that’s much older than the NFL teams that quote it all the time, too. But regardless, the idea is the same.
You can’t always spot and adapt to industry shifts if you let other companies create them. If you drive that change yourself, you’ll constantly lead the charge instead of playing catch-up.
Invest in innovation, professional development, and new technologies that might end up being useless. That’s what it means to be the best team, the best people, and the one that wins—again and again.
There is so much more meat on the bone to my interview with Keith. Whether you’re interested in politics or business, he deserves your ear. Check out the Success Story YouTube page for our full discussion, which also goes into how he combined Silicon Valley sensibilities with governmental tools and resources.
Otherwise, go focus on your team!
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