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I was browsing through a science magazine the other day and came across an article on astronomy. While reading it, it occurred to me that teams in the workplace area lot like stars and their solar systems. There are three different kinds.

Some function like our own solar system, with a bright light at the center (the team leader) holding satellites in orbit by force of its gravity. This is the hands-on leader, the one who can do—and who does do—everything that anyone else on the team can do, only better. They lead by force of personality, hard work, and long experience. The planets (their team members) are held in orbit by force of gravity of the leader. Some of these planets seem to shine, but theirs is actually reflected light; they do not produce it on their own. Such solar systems tend to function okay and last a long time… least until the energy of the star at their center burns out. A lot of work teams function the same way, as long as the team leader stays actively in control and at the center of things employee productivity stays high.

Some teams are more like black holes. The gravitational pull (ego) of the leader is so strong and intense that no light ever emerges. They suck energy from all of the space around them. This is the hallmark of a team leader for whom everything is “me” and never “we.” Fortunately, these are rare, as they typically produce more employee grievances than employee satisfaction.

A third kind of system, accounting for perhaps as many as 75% of all star systems, are called binary stars. These are the ones that excite me. In a binary system, two stars mutually orbit each other, interacting with each other’s gravitational field, sometimes even exchanging mass between themselves. Binary stars release a level of power that single stars can never attain.

Think what this means for organizations. Imagine a team where the needs of the leader and the needs of the members revolve mutually around each other.

Those teams—potentially those 75% of all teams—that create a setting where people—their dreams, ambitions, talents, and strengths—can be put to best use in pursuit of the mission and goals of the company and its leaders—are those that evolve to stages that ordinary teams cannot attain.

Through Beyond Morale, we work with those kinds of companies—those which orbit around the shared center of mass of their people and the organization

About Cliff Hurst

Dr. Cliff Hurst is a faculty member at Westminster College and mostly teaches in the MBA program. Dr. Hurst teaches courses in the Entrepreneurship track including: Entrepreneurship, Business Plan Development, Marketing New Ventures, and Social Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Hurst received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia and his MA and PhD from Fielding Graduate University .Prior to becoming a full-time faculty member of Westminster College, Dr. Hurst operated his own Organizational Development consulting practice for 24 years. He has previously taught as an adjunct faculty at the University of San Francisco, UC Berkeley International Certificate program, and at Santa Clara University. He has also had prior experience in sales and marketing management in the recreational boating industry and served for 5 years as an officer in the U.S. Marines.

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