Stars in Full Daylight

Imagine a company where the chief engineer is a star, the technologist too, as well as the designer, the financier, the production manager. And of course, the secretary... As people say, may it come true! But is it really so? The truth is that many companies give an eyetooth to have the best specialists in the branch. They believe that is enough to become the leaders in their business. But do individuals of repute always make a strong team? Does a team of stars bear less risk than any other, or just the opposite? How can you manage a team of people with huge self-confidence? These and other questions about the star business teams we asked to five managers with rich experience in team management. Read their answers. Some of them are in diametrical opposition. Where the truth is, you can judge by yourselves. In this case, it doesn't seem somewhere in the middle...

The questions we asked:

1. Does a team need stars by all means?

2. Is it an advantage to have a team of stars? Can such team ensure better market positions for the company?

3. Real Madrid Football Club, consisting solely of world famous players, could not win the Cup of Spain for quite a long time. If we turn from sports to the business, is there such a phenomenon: a team of stars cannot cope with its tasks? What could be the reason?

4. What risks you can face having a team of stars?

5. What is the way to manage such team having in mind that stars are more self-centered and require special attention and attitude? How do others feel, shining by reflected light?

6. What is your ideal team, what persons it should consist of?

Daniela Petkova, Chief Executive Officer of PAC Doverie

To stand a prima donna

The biggest risk is that you may find your self lacking enough power, capacity and patience to manage such team and guide it to victory.

1. In my opinion the good team should be like a constellation, a regular geometric shape with each star having its exact place in it. In a successful team all players should be stars. The best variant is when part of them is in the protostellar phase, the early stage in the process of star formation. The other part should be of the red giants type, the later phase of star evolution. And the rest, the smallest part, should be white dwarfs, stars that are extremely dense and hot. They are known for sure that in their next stage will gradually radiate away their energy, cool down and turn to the so called dead stars. There should be by all means more than one star in a team so that the team won't disappear when the star cools down. And when there are more stars they should be in different stages of evolution so that they won't cool down simultaneously.

2. I believe that a team of stars may achieve better market positions, and besides, more effective company management. A good market position is only one of the possible results from effective management. Sometimes the more difficult task is not to expand your market share but to preserve it. A team of stars is not only an advantage but an obligatory condition for success if the company has a large scale business and relies only on the market mechanisms. When we don't see stars in the sky we know that tomorrow would rather be cloudy and dull. It is the same with business. Stars attract people, present and future clients of the company. We all like to see clear sky and stars. That makes us feel easy and secure.

3. Real Madrid finally won the Cup! Obviously, the stars of that team, leading it to the victory, have successfully attracted their fans and partners, winning new ones and filling the stadiums. That is why the football club has huge financial abilities allowing it to pay EUR 104 million for just one more star. Naturally, when many stars are gathered together they would need some time to form a constellation. It is the same with the firms. It needs time for a team of top specialists to turn into an effective team of managers, each of them taking his perfect position that would enable him to shine full-power without blinding and burning the others. It is natural that a group of top specialists may miss some or another achievement by the time it becomes a successful team. We should not forget that at the same time, on their way to victory, the top specialists like the stars of Real Madrid attract their fans and win new ones. Though they have not yet won the championship, they amass value for the firm. Now is the time to mention the key role of the manager, who has not only to select the proper stars but to arrange them in a way that they won't become just a big formless star congregation moving in lightning speed, but without any direction, sweeping away and burning out everything on its way, including its manager.

4. The biggest risk is that you may find yourself lacking enough power, capacity and patience to manage such team and guide it to victory. A team of stars needs its moments of victory; otherwise it will certainly go to pieces. The lack of a good general manager is one of the big risks for a team of top specialists since they are exacting, and quite justifiably, to the one who plays that role. At least because every one of them has both his good reason and self-confidence to think that there is no one better. The other big risk is that in business as well as in football a star can often be bought by another, since they are worth their money. That is why you should always have another, in its early stage of evolution, as a reserve. The failure of a team is first of all a failure of the general manager. The stars, just because they are stars, will very soon find another team whose manager is ready to pay the appropriate price for them. However, it's not the same with the manager who failed.

5. Such team can be run following the principle often described in literature, i.e. there is no matter how many hysterical outbursts the prima donna will present you with before the performance starts bringing profit. The manager of the opera is paid to tolerate also the bad moods of the prima, if this is her way to reach perfection of the aria... Stars, like all other people have their faults and weaknesses, and may be even more than the others. The job of the manager is to be strong enough not to feel the stars as a threat for himself and to minimize the effect of their weaknesses on the others.

6. The ideal team consists of people working in different spheres, everyone of them being a top specialist in his/her sphere. These people should share common values and principles so that they could unite together for reaching a common purpose, though every one of them is walking on his own way.

Nikolai Nedelchev, Managing Director of Publicis MARK Group

Who cares about the glorious past? Nobody!

What matters is the product that the team creates here and now

1. It's not a must. But what a team truly needs is a leader with professional qualities, a vision, intuition and charisma.

2. Yes, stars often bear the aura of publicity. That is a prerequisite for establishing better market positions. The major principle of business is to give a promise and to keep it. What really matters is the product or service the team offers here and now. And not how great are the stars in it and what glorious past they have had. Nobody goes to football matches where the players are stars but the team always looses.

3. Besides Real Madrid, there are so many examples from the sphere of music: bands of superstars are formed that make poor product or quickly disintegrate after making a couple of fair albums. Such things happen with firms too and the main reasons are two: the lack of a strong person to lead the team; or the interference of some external factor (board of director, owners, etc.) imposing an agenda confronting that of the team leader.

4. The risks are connected mainly with the management of the ego of the stars on the one hand, and with the establishment of balance between the collective and the personal interests, on the other.

5. Management of such a team should be based on several simple principles, which anyone, irrespective of his/her status, should constantly observe.

6. Manchester United! First, that football club has been in a phase of top achievements for almost 20 years already. In the foundations of the team's success stands a strong, charismatic leader, Sir Alex Ferguson. The stars in that team (the majority of the team) have to prove themselves in every match. Neither their "star" status nor their huge transfer price is a guarantee for their presence on the field. In that team, if anybody, no matter a star or a moon, breaks any of the major team principles, he either leaves the team or changes his modus operandi to reconcile it to the team principles. In Manchester United everyone has the right and the chance to be the "hero" or the "star" as far as this is to the benefit of the collective goals.

Franco del Fabro, Executive Director of Kraft Foods Bulgaria

They are useful, nothing more

It'sbadwhentargetsaremissedbecause of someone's ego

1. I would say it is useful, but it is not obligatory. Many teams achieve high results without stars.

2. I do not think it is an advantage. Various examples from the world of sports come to my mind where a team consisting mainly of stars is defeated by far less known players. They manage to make a good team much more effectively and respectively, to win.

3. Unfortunately I cannot give examples of teams of stars in business, neither winning, nor having failed in a given project. Certainly however in sports the examples are quite many. Probably, it is because the individual players think more for themselves than for the team. It's a fact that both in sports and in business the team is that wins anyway, and not the individual.

4. The risks are many. If the focus is on the individual rather than the team, that could lead out of the way to the goal. For instance, if several strong horses drag the wagon all in different directions, no one would go far for certain.

5. Our company does not tolerate missing aims because of the ego of a given employee. In my opinion the real star is that person, who manages to guide the team ahead so that it can achieve results far beyond the average, using such skills as leadership, communication and motivation.

6. A team should be balanced. If we stick to football terms, nobody needs a whole team of Beckhams or Zidanes. You need the playmaker, the backs, the goalkeeper and those to score the goals, altogether. We are here to win. The same applies to business. You need a team of different players, anyone knowing and bearing his personal responsibility and in parallel having the vision of what are the others doing. Certainly, the team needs a leader to take the initiative and rely on the players' support. And finally, you need the coach to develop the winning strategy and turn to good advantage each player's potential.

Walter Wölle, Manager, General and Technical Director of Siemens Bulgaria

We against the others and vice versa

Thedangercomeswithsituationswhenalltheplayersinateamstrugglefortheball,everyonestrivingto outplay the others. And the ball is just one, and that is so not only in football.

1. It is nice when there are stars in the team. For me, those are the people who attract more clients and business to the company.

2. Their presence is doubtlessly an advantage for any company. A team cannot consist however only of persons with the self-confidence of stars. In a well-built team the role of each member should be significant and rightly estimated. Any concentration of the attention on the star status of an individual or individuals may demotivate the other, otherwise key players, and eventually have a negative effect on the company as a whole.

3. When we are talking about stars in business and their manifestation, the analogies with sports are quite apt. Thedangercomeswithsituationswhenalltheplayersinateamstruggle between themfortheball,everyonestrivingto outplay the others. And the ball is just one, and that is so not only in football.

4. There are two risks: one is that all team members may rush into one and the same star track, leaving other key tracks for the business uncovered. And the second is that the players who in this competition play only the supporting role may be left disappointed. Thus the idea of team-work is spoiled, as well as the good atmosphere in the company. And there is just one small step from here to the bad business results.

5. To manage a team of bright personalities is a serious trial for the manager. The main challenge is related with the process of team building and the joining the team together around the common goal. In a good working team any member should be a star in his own sphere.

6. The ideal team should be well balanced and that is a duty of the manager. When individual employees are distinguished by their specific skills, those skills should be well understood and estimated also by the other team members. Here the management plays the key role in revealing those specific skills and their appropriate communication, both outside, with the public, the partners and the customers; and inside the team itself. That is a way to avoid the discrepancy between expectations and prizes. Such discrepancy usually leads to a real disbalance and becomes a threat for the business.

Maya Georgieva, Executive Director of First Investment Bank

The delicate balance

It turns out that the unostentatious leader has the best command of it

1. If by stars you mean good professionals, yes. Any team needs good experts who have a deep knowledge of the nature of their work. I will give you an example with the team we formed for the realization of the initial public offering of FIB on the stock exchange. Our team comprised of proved professionals, each of us a specialist in a particular sphere. During the IPO we distributed our roles according to our expert knowledge. As the final result, we realized the most successful listing on the Bulgarian Stock Exchange.

2. A team of "stars" professionals guarantees the successful realization of a campaign. As to whether a team of experts can improve the market positions of a company, our bank is the perfect evidence of it. We have always worked as a team, knowing our strengths and weaknesses.

3. Of course, there is. But such thing happens when there are too many pronounced leaders among the stars. And when leadership prevails over professionalism there's no way to build a united team where people listen to one another, hear one another and learn from one another. You have to leave everyone to show his paces in the field where you know his strengths are. That is the way to build an adequate team. Not only are the qualities of the individuals important but also their skills to work in harmony.

4. Not to lose control over the team. Because in a team of stars a constant balance should be observed.

5. It's hard for me to say since no one of the people I work with behaves like such a "star".

6. A team of good professionals and of course, one unostentatious leader. I would even say a leader staying in the shadow