Avoid the Talent Trap
by Emphasizing Trust

Avoiding the Talent Trap

Why do business and athletic teams with the most talented people so often fall behind or get beaten by teams of lesser talent? The 2004 USA Men’s Basketball team, the example par excellence, was beaten by the far less talented teams of Puerto Rico, Lithuania, and Argentina. 

The poor performance of the American team was a classic example of the Talent Trap. The uber-talented individuals on Team USA could not play together as a whole. The other teams with less talented individuals could. Trust overcame the talent deficit.

NFL Talent Trap

I used the chart above with an NFL team that is looking to revise their player acquisition strategy. The teams that win consistently tend to seek players of high trust and good talent. The teams that are loaded with talent but have little trust often have lots of internal friction, drama, and sub-optimal performance. Sadly, there are a lot of highly talented people who are simply toxic.

It’s much easier to develop someone’s skills than to turn a selfish person into a trustworthy team player. Why don’t companies and teams measure trust with the same energy and precision as they measure talent? 

To build and evaluate trust intentionally, start with these three steps:

  1. Identify your most important standards and expectations … and WHY they are important.
  2. Define what right looks like for each one of them for leaders and employees; use these as part of your screening during the hiring process. 
  3. Hold everyone accountable to meet these standards and expectations, especially your top talent.