Heera Training & Management Consultants

eNewsletter July 2007

Dear Everyone,
Hi! And how are you all? It has been a very, very busy month, conducting training from Kerteh to Kucing. I had a good break in between going for a short holiday to Bangkok (taking advantage of Air Asia’s generous offers). It was physically tiring though as shopping all day, can be a little hard on the legs and body!!
 The highlight next month will be a trip to Hamburg, Germany where I will be conducting training for a multi-national company. I am really excited as this is the first time that I will be conducting training in Europe for a wholly European audience. It has been a little bit stressful preparing, as the standards set was very high. I am also aware that I will be facing many cultural barriers during the training. As much as I disliked the number of hours spent on research, designing the course and the other training preparations, I am also aware that this is the price you pay for development. At the end of the day, I can only become a better person and trainer. 
This month, I want to talk to you about 'The Apollo Syndrome', a phenomenon discovered by Dr Meredith Belbin where teams of highly capable individuals can collectively, perform badly. In his book ‘Management Teams – Why they Succeed or Fail’ he reported that teams which were formed of highly intelligent people, surprisingly produced unexpectedly poor results as compared to other teams with ‘less talented’ individuals and he called this the ‘Apollo Syndrome’.    


When he was carrying out his research, his perception was that if he put highly intelligent people in one team, it would give them an advantage and they would be sure to win in the team competitions. Surprisingly, the results were the reverse, and the Apollo teams often finished near the bottom of the eight teams which were competing.

This failure seemed to be due to certain flaws in the way the team operated:

  • They apparently spent a lot of time in unnecessary debate and arguments in trying to persuade other team members to adopt their own point of view, to the extent that whilst other teams were already working on their tasks, the ‘Apollo’ teams were still in the midst of ‘discussion’.
  • They had difficulty in reaching consensus and whatever decision was arrived at did not get the whole hearted support of the whole team.
  • Team members tended to act independently without taking account of what fellow members were doing.
  • Everyone wanted to be the informal leader of the team and as such, even when formal leaders were appointed, the team proved very difficult to manage.

A key lesson from Belbin’s work is that putting together a team of the most talented or best individuals may not necessarily produce the best results. A good example is Chelsea football club in the English Premier League. Even after winning the English league championship in season 2005/2006, they went and bought three of the most sought after players in the world, Andriy Shevchenko from Ukraine, Michael Ballack from Germany and Ashley Cole from England. Their objective was to win the Champion’s trophy (champion club of Europe). The results the next season however did not meet their objectives: they came out second in the English league championship and were out of the Champions trophy in Europe in the quarter finals. Interestingly, they had four national captains in the team, the English captain (John Terry), The Ivory Coast captain (Didier Drogba), the Ukraine captain (Shevchenko) and the German captain (Ballack). This is a classic example of the Apollo Syndrome.

A key lesson we can take in the corporate world from all the above is that we have to find the ‘right’ balance and chemistry when recruiting and selecting staff, as new members of the team. A highly talented individual, who is not a team player, may be of less value that a not so talented individual who is a good team player. This ‘right balance’ may not be easy to find though.

A possible solution would be through psychometric profiling as it could ensure that there is a blend between the personalities of the individuals in the team. Another key factor I would suggest that we look out for during the selection process would the attitude of the potential employee. I would rather employ a not so talented individual with a positive attitude rather than a highly talented individual with a poor attitude. Please remember that skills and knowledge, you can impart and teach; attitude on the other hand is very difficult to change.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. I really do hope you have enjoyed reading the above, and I have in a small way, added to your management knowledge. Until my next newsletter, take care and I do hope you will all have a great month ahead.

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Heera Singh
Principal Consultant
HEERA Training and Management Consultancy
HP 0126083708