People management: What managers can learn from The Beatles

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The Beatles weren’t a group, they were a team; and this is a distinction all good managers should make when handling their staff, argues David Winch on our sister site

Is your staff a group or a team? It’s an important distinction to make. For example, I'd claim the Beatles weren’t a pop group. Before you lynch me for pop blasphemy, the difference is this: John, Paul, George, and Ringo weren’t a group – they were a team. Whilst one characteristic of both a team and a group is that they all share the same manager, the following three criteria are as good a test as any for identifying a group:
  • No member depends on any other member.
  • Each member can achieve their goals without reference to or help from any other member.
  • Group achievement is the sum of all the individual achievements.
This hardly applies to The Beatles! In business (particularly in sales), problems arise when the team gets treated like a group. Sure, the management pays lip service to the sales team, but in reality they are often a sales group. They are generally given group building incentives, and not team building ones, and then people wonder why team building exercises don't deliver the performance gains expected. There are several important areas of difference. 

Team building

  • Get the right team – (The Beatles drafted in Ringo Starr to replace Pete Best)
  • Fitting in is more important than virtuosity – but that helps too – (again, the Ringo example holds true here!)
  • Help each other out – (The Beatles had to practise at Paul's house because John’s aunt Mimi wouldn’t let them practice at her house)
  • Collaborate and share good ideas (Lennon and McCartney wrote the songs together)
  • Seek and accept help, especially when you're starting out (in The Beatles’ case it was manager Brian Epstein and producer George Martin that cultivated the band as we know them)
  • Coach each other (Paul taught John some chords at their first meeting)
  • Listen to what the customers are saying about you, and act on it (choose your own Beatles analogy for this one – for business people it’s a must!)
Group building
  • Getting the right individuals is still important; however mavericks and loose cannons are acceptable if they achieve their individual goals.
  • Be as good as you can be so you'll keep your place.
  • Be selfish – don't waste time on other team members if they don’t help you achieve your ultimate goal.
  • Provide individual incentives.
  • Reward individual success.
  • If you find a magic formula, keep it to yourself.
  • If you're good, why would you need help or advice?
  • If you achieve your goals, what does it matter what customers think and say about you?
I’m sure you can see where I’m heading. Businesses need to have a sales team and not a sales group. It’s essential that firms realise the difference and structure their workforce from a team perspective. So, what do great teams do?
  • Celebrate team success as a team.
  • Share mistakes and learn from them, as a team.
  • Spread good ideas amongst the team.
  • Look out for each other.
  • When needed, have clearly defined roles and responsibilities – (every good team needs its lead guitars, rhythm, bass, and drums).
  • At other times share the load.
  • Embrace creativity and experimentation.
  • Have of a shared view of what success looks like.
  • Support each other.
  • Share the load of leading.
  • Encourage each other.
  • Stand by each other.
  • Allow occasional dropping out just to demonstrate the huge difference team support actually makes.
Which category does your staff fall under: Group or team?

David Winch is an independent marketing and sales consultant and runs The Professional Adviser. See for more information. He is not the David Winch of Accounting Evidence Ltd and MLRO Support.


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