Bill Russell played for the Boston Celtics for 13 years. He was a remarkable player, winning the NBA championship in 11 of his 13 years. The key to their success, he said, was their ability to build their team egos. When the Celtics went into a building to practice or play a game they didn’t bring their individual egos. They brought their team ego into the building. They knew that they were a strong team, and so their attitude towards any opponent was to bring great games.
Great coaches knew the secret about ego
Great coaches constantly speak to the importance of the team, not the individual. Vince Lombardi of Green Bay Packer fame used to tell his athletes, “Individual commitment to a group cause is what makes a team, a business, a church, or a country work.”
John Wooden, the iconic UCLA basketball coach, was a star player. In his senior year, he won the College Player of Year award. He was also the coach of many stars at UCLA, some of whom went on to be great in the NBA. He had this insight into individual ego and stardom, “The main ingredient of a star is the rest of the team.”
Al McGuire, a basketball Hall of Famer, was an outstanding coach at Marquette University. His primary refrain to his players was, “Either we all go uptown together, or no one goes uptown at all.”
Talent doesn’t always matter
You do need talent to win in athletics, but talent alone will not win; it is only talent that plays together that wins. Jerry West is a great shooter. His playing career spanned 14 years, and he was a part of 1 championship team.
Michael Jordan is one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen. He was in practice as well as during 30 playoff games. Oscar Robertson is the best player to have ever played in the NBA. West played with him for 14 years and only one championship.
Charles Barkley was an exceptional player. Although he was an eleven-time All NBA Player, and in 1993 the League’s most valuable player, he did not play on any championship teams.
Ernie Banks was a great player for the Chicago Cubs over 18 years. Ernie Banks is the most powerful power-hitting shortstop ever to play in baseball history. He led the National League with home runs in 1960 and 1958, and finished his career with 512 hits. While a Hall of Famer and a 14-time All-Star as well as a 2-time National League player of the year, he did not play on any championship teams.
Team ego transcends athletics
Stephen Covey, a business consultant and author of the famous book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote that when he studied businesses, he found that they encompassed three kinds of people: independent, dependent, and interdependent. The most effective businesses were those that had interdependent employees, he stated. These companies believed everybody’s job was important and no job was too small. All of us need one another!
Dr. Jack Orr saved the University of St. Francis by bringing it from close to bankruptcy and establishing an endowment under his presidency. By knowing his entire team, including the Board of Trustees and all the faculty members, he developed an ego for teamwork. He also valued all the staff who helped clean the dormitories.
Team play is a key component of the Healthcare profession. To provide the best care for a patient, there needs to be collaboration among nurses, doctors and therapists. Ego-driven professionals are a threat to the health of patients.
Jealousy kills teamwork
Jealousy kills a team! No matter the platform, teamwork can be destroyed when jealousy is present. As an athlete, I’ve seen projects that were not related to the sports world have zero chance of succeeding. It is important to recognize the signs of jealousy in a team, and then to confront it head-on.
Oliver Stone had this insight into jealousy when he wrote, “Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy. Never underestimate that.” And BC Forbes had the finishing touch, “Jealousy…is a mental cancer.”
Team ego wins.