Mizzou Football’s “Team First” Philosophy



As much as any team likes to measure itself by its best people, the truth is that the strength of the team is impacted by its weakest link. No matter how much people try to rationalize it, compensate for it or hide it, a weak link will eventually come to light.


One of the mistakes I often made early in my career as a team leader was that I thought everyone who was on my team should remain on the team. When I look at individuals with potential, I see all they can become—even if they do not see it themselves, and I try to encourage and equip them to become better. I figure that the more people who take the trip, the bigger the party. I sometimes naively assume that everyone will want to go along with me.

Just because I wanted to take everyone with me did not mean that it would always work out that way. I have discovered that when it comes to teamwork.

1.    Not Everyone Will Take the Journey

For some people, the issue is their attitudes. They do not want to change, grow or conquer new territory. They hold fast to the status quo. All you can do with people in this group is kindly thank them for their past contributions and move on.


2.    Not Everyone Should Take the Journey

Other people should not join a team because of their agendas. They have other plans, and where you are going is not the right place for them. The best thing you can do for people in this category is wish them well, and as far as you are able, help them on the way so that they achieve success in their ventures.


3.    Not Everyone Can Take the Journey

How do you recognize people who cannot take the journey? They’re not very hard to identify. Often they:

–       Cannot keep peace with other team members—No or very few PR’s

–       Do not grow in their areas of responsibility—Academically and socially irresponsible.

–       Do not see the big picture—Personal agenda is more important than the TEAM.

–       Won’t work on personal weaknesses—Doesn’t make personal sacrifices to get better.

–       Won’t work with the rest of the team—Individual accomplishments are more important than team goals.

–       Cannot fulfill expectations for their areas—Is not accountable to TEAM.


If you have people who display one or more of these characteristics, you need to acknowledge that they are weak links.

If you have people on your team who are weak links, you have only two choices. Train them or trade them. Your first priority should always be to try to train people who are having a hard time keeping up. I believe that people often rise to your level of expectations. Give them hope and training, and they usually improve.

But what should you do if a team member continually fails to meet expectations, even after receiving training, encouragement and opportunities to grow? You need to give that person an opportunity to find his or her own level somewhere else.

If you are a team leader, you cannot avoid dealing with weak links. Team members who do not carry their own weight not only slow down the team, but they also impact your leadership. Take a look at some of the things that happen when a weak link remains on the team:


1.    The Stronger Members Identify the Weak One

A weak link cannot hide (except in a group of weak people). If you have strong people on your team, they always know who is not performing up to the level of everyone else. Remember this: a weak link always eventually robs the team of momentum and potential.


2.    The Stronger Members Have to Help the Weak One

If your people must work together as a team in order to do their work, then they have two choices when it comes to a weak teammate. They can ignore the person and allow the team to suffer, or they can help him or her and make the team more successful. If they are team players, they will help.


3.    The Stronger Members Come to Resent the Weak One

Whether strong team members help, the result will always be the same: resentment. No one likes to lose or fall behind because of the same person.

If your team has a weak link that cannot or will not rise to the level of the team—and you have done everything you can to help the person improve—then you’ve got to take action. Take the advice of authors Danny Cox and John Hoover. If you need to remove somebody from the team, be discreet, be clear, be honest and be brief. If you start to have second thoughts before or afterword, remember this: As long as a weak link is part of the team, everyone else on the team will suffer.