In two unrelated stories this week, there are some shared lessons in how we define talent. Paula Deen was, in essence, fired for admitting to making racist comments (an awkward series of apologies didn’t help) and George Zimmer, founder and CEO of Men’s Warehouse was fired for differences in how much debt the company should take on.
Both instances bring up the perils and plusses of too much concentrated talent. Yes, these are consumer brands with celebrity personalities which is hard for most companies to relate to, but that doesn’t negate the point that leaving too much company identity in the hands of one person or a few people can be dangerous.
Whether it’s service or sales, a team effort should be branded and placed in front of the customer. It’s harder to recruit and cultivate team talent but it’s far more valuable in the long run.
How do you get star performance from a team? First, it’s recognizing the myth of star power. Most successful companies, even ones with celebrity name-brand founders, are really supported by hard-working teams of experts. Promoting this not only hedges against a brand killing celebrity style slip up, but it also will please your customers.
Take a cue from both Apple and Zappos. Zappos promotes excellent customer service and takes great pains to hire people who are friendly, helpful, and empathetic. Apple too has invested heavily in a team of people on the phones and in stores who excude excellence every step of the way. They even call them geniuses, which is kind of reassuring when your hard-drive gets fried. But those geniuses were a smart investment for a brand that lost such an iconic CEO.
Sure, your business is different from Men’s Warehouse and you’re no Paula Deen, but looking within your organization to see if you’re vulnerable to star power might be the first step in uncovering some geniuses of your own.