Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The muddling many

"According to HBS professor Thomas J. DeLong...and Vineeta Vijayaraghavan, B players are the "heart and soul" of any company. B players are loyal. They are the ones who do their work without fanfare or fuss. They are the keepers of institutional memory during hard times such as a merger or downsizing. " "These are the people who create ballast for the organization," said DeLong.

When I started writing Nonprofit Leadership I was taken by the B Team argument as a way to understand my own career but also as a way to describe my intended audience and an untapped human resource in organizations. I feel strongly that too much of the leadership and management literature is by and for the superstars and social entrepreneurs of the year. Sharing my early drafts with colleagues prompted a gag reflex -- B implies A; hierarchy; the unmovable middle; and those who stick around too long. I've always felt fairly comfortable being a B student, or maybe B+ if I was lucky. No one else did.

In response, I came up with a sports metaphor that captured what I was trying to get at about myself and for lots of the folks I had worked with over the years. I'm a fairly consistent hitter of singles and doubles, and getting on base any way I can, but I am not the charismatic crowd pleaser who knocks it out of the park. I do my work the best I can and don't strike out. In the long run, that adds up to a pretty good batting average.

The problem with this metaphor is that it doesn't take into account the interaction and performance of teams -- the magic stuff. We need yet another metaphor.

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