The MVP you must have in your team


Most Valuable Player

Every successful team has a star personality that lifts the team simply by making an appearance. Whether you are a team member or a team leader, every now and then you should take a look at the team composition and get a feel for the team MVP.  If you want to guarantee success for your team, initiative or assignment, make sure you have one such personality.

Guy Kawasaki in his book “The Art of the Start” has coined the term “mall syndrome”.  He says if you happen to notice one of your team members at the mall would you straightaway go over and tap your mate’s shoulder and talk to him?  Or would you just slink away hoping that your mate did not see you?

No need to guess which action would occur if you were part of a harmonious team.

Most of the time you will not be able to pick each and every member in your team.  Usually, the team is given to you.  Sure you will be able to add the odd member occasionally.  If you are unlucky you will lose a good team member and if you are really lucky a bad team member will quit the team.  It becomes even more difficult in the workplace where you have to work around HR guidelines and corporate rules to induct new team members.

And hiring mistakes are part of the game.  Every now and then you will make a bad hire; after all there is only so much about a person that you can glean in an interview.

So let me describe the MVP that you must have in your team:

Revered subject matter expert

The star personality is not only an expert in his or her field, but is also seen to be one.  In a sport team, this is a star player who is consistently high-scoring and usually a match-winner.

Gets along well with others

This person not only is respected by everyone else in the team, but also goes the extra mile to make others comfortable.  Sometimes their mere presence calms the nerves of other team members.

Always encourages others and is willing to mentor juniors

The star player is a contagiously encouraging personality and is constantly egging others to improve their game.  The person is always willing to help develop lesser team mates and sometimes also puts aside their own work to help out others with a question, doubt or issue.

Knows when to get tough and does it in a very professional and empathetic manner

In my experience such a person is much better suited to get tough with other errant team members.  A member at the receiving end feels less of a reprimand and more of a lesson than if it were to come from some authority higher up such as a team leader. 

Pays great attention to detail, timelines and quality of output

The star player stakes his or her reputation on the assignment.  They would do everything in their power to ensure a successful outcome.  They not only prioritize the important stuff, but also have great attention to detail.  Most importantly, they are not satisfied with a mediocre output, but strive to ensure a high quality.   Sometimes I have felt frustrated and wanted to submit the deliverable, but my MVP would want one more iteration to ensure 100% accuracy.

You get along well with this person

It is very important that the leader gets along well with the star personality.  Every once in a while this is not the case, and the star player loses effectiveness.   The team suffers.  You as leader must not only identify and recruit the star player, but also ensure that you set up the environment for the player to weave his or her magic.  There must be a very high level of trust between the leader and the star player.

Understands time pressures and critical path

By understanding the critical path, the star person helps the leader to focus on the important things that have a huge effect on the outcome.  I have been the beneficiary on numerous occasions by my star player asking me to take on something which I had probably put on the back burner.

Single-handedly lifts the team

Whether it is by recognizing others, being friendly or humorous or by shouldering extraordinary challenges, the star player by his/her mere presence lifts the spirits of the team.  In my cricket team, I have seen the team morale lifted by simply seeing my star player being available for a game.  Conversely, on days when the player was not available, shoulders would droop visibly.

Watches over the leader

On more than one occasion, I have been corrected by my star player.  Whether I failed to include someone in a communication, did not schedule a session that I should have or simply forgot something, my star player has pointed out such things and I have benefited from her actions.


a. Of favoritism: this is a serious risk.  It is human nature for lesser team members to be envious of such a personality and this could become detrimental to the team cause. It is upto you as the leader to keep a pulse on the team mindset and identify any such issues and then deal with them appropriately.  You not only have to be fair, but you also have to be seen to be fair.

b. Of the tail wagging the dog: There is also a risk that the star personality can quickly develop an ego and consider their own self bigger than the team and the leader.  This may well jeopardize the harmony of the team and the outcome of the project.  As with any risk, this one needs to be managed.  In my experience, an effective leader, through a combination of trust and mentorship, should be able to manage this risk.

In every one of my of my teams, I look to induct this type of a start personality.  Having such an MVP has ensured success in my assignments.  What are your experiences?  Do share using the comments section below.