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Addition by Subtraction


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While our house doesn’t follow the NBA closely, I did grow up a Philadelphia 76ers fan (Dr. J was one of my childhood heroes). So I do check in on the Sixers from time to time. Recently there was some pretty significant drama that was all generated by a disgruntled player. This player was under contract however he refused to play when the season began. He not only demanded a trade, but wanted to be sent to a specific team, which ties the Sixers’ hand in trying to get the best value they can.


This player is widely known as one of the biggest “divas” in sports, so none of this was a surprise. His statements and the way he acts make no bones about it, he is a “me” guy not a “we” guy. The big issue with it is that while the player has been very good for a long period of time, the teams he has played for have never won anything. Not in college, not in the pro ranks. No championships, no NBA Finals appearances, nada. Also only a few near misses to speak of. Acquiring this player almost guarantees your team will achieve nothing.


Eventually the 76ers made a deal to send this player to the team he had requested. What happened when he arrived at his new destination? They sunk to last place almost immediately. What happened to the Sixers? They rattled off seven straight wins (and counting). This is a case of addition by subtraction. No matter how talented the player, or the employee, or the person is, if they can’t elevate the entire team with their gifts, they are expendable.


In this case, the removal of the player made one team better and the other one worse. Adding talented people that don’t want to be part of a group environment usually devalues the other players so the team can’t optimize its success. We have not only seen this in sports, but also in business. Honestly, I’ve experienced this a few times in the organizations I have been part of in the past.


Sometimes when you remove a talented individual from the equation, other people have the opportunity to step up and shine. This also can apply to the top of the organizational pyramid. Sometimes it’s the head coach or CEO that is holding everyone back. The sooner a team or organization realizes that there is someone or something bottlenecking things, change needs to be made to get things back on track.


Remove the obstacle, be it a person, client, or a process. Put your team and your organization in the best position to win whatever game they are playing. Run your own race as best you can and block out everything else.


As one of our favorite people says routinely, “Run your race, everything else is just a distraction.” Remove the distractions for your best chance at success.

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