Why Talent Alone Is Not Enough

million-150x150I was watching the film Million Dollar Arm, which is about the search for the first Indian athletes to play Major League Baseball, and there was a great leadership lesson in the film.

It’s such an important lesson, I thought I would share it here, because it is often one of the key differences between success and failure.

Many leaders seem to believe that when we bring together talented teams, success is a foregone conclusion. It’s almost as if talent alone is enough for success to be guaranteed.

But the truth is, that as leaders, we need to set up our teams so that they can be successful, even when they are very talented. We need to make sure that the environment is right, that they have everything that they need, that they are well motivated and when we do that we significantly increase the probability of success.

In the film, JB Bernstein travels to India, with a scout, to look for athletes who have the speed and accuracy to be Pitchers in baseball. They are looking for players who can throw the ball over 80mph and who can hit the target, the plate, consistently.

They find two player Dinesh and Rinku with that talent, who they then bring from rural India to the US. This alone is a significant cultural change, as well las taking them away from their friends and family. They are then put up first in a hotel which doesn’t work, and then they stay with JB, but he doesn’t really take a significant interest in them. They receive coaching at University of Southern California but he rarely goes to see them play

It’s as if he believes they have the talent and the process will lead them to success. The process being 9-10 months of coaching followed by a try out for the professional leagues.

Dinesh and Rinku fail to adapt to life in the US, they feel homesick, they don’t really integrate with their team mates, and consequently don’t make the expected progress.

JB ignores all of this information and still organises the tryouts.

To compound matters the tryouts and done in a completely alien environment, not at the college where they training, but in an artificial environment set up in a car park.

Result? They fail!

They do not even show a fraction of the talent they had at the start, let alone after 9 months of coaching and training.

Both Dinesh and Rinku are despondent, feeling that they have let JB down.

It’s at this point that JB sees that the reality is this, it’s not them that has failed, but him.

He has let them down. He has just left them with their talents to succeed or fail. He has not put them in the best position to be successful.

So now he looks to rectify his mistakes. He looks to make them feel more at home in his home, and more connected with him. He attends their trainings, ensures that they have fun and are actually enjoying the process.

He organises a second tryout, but this time instead of it being in an alien environment he holds it at their training facility. Now they feel comfortable and relaxed, they are in a familiar environment, so less stress.

The result? Success.

Both of them pitch the ball at over 90mph, and with accuracy. Not only do they show their natural talents, but they show the benefits of the coaching which has now taken them to a level where they are good enough to play in the Major League.

Why were they successful? Because their leader had taken the time to set them up for success. He had put them into a safe environment, one where they could thrive and demonstrate their abilities to the maximum extent.

As leaders if we want our teams to be successful, then we must do the same!

Teams and individuals succeed in the right environments, ones which allows their talents to flourish.

Even the most talented struggle when they are just thrown in the deep end with little or no leadership support.

I highly recommend the film as it really does a great job of demonstrating both what not to do, and also what to do, in order to be successful.

If you’d like to know more about setting your team up for success, then email me at gordon@leadershp-principles.com where we can look to arrange a strategy session.