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    In the January 23 – 29 Issue of the Business Review Weekly, Paul Rizzo, Dean of the Melbourne Business School, points out that teamwork should be added to the issues that affect board performance. Teamwork is also a major issue in the performance of executive teams, and indeed in teams right throughout an organisation.

    Paul identifies selection of board members and the way in which they operate in relation to the executive team as of prime importance. In most cases, board members are highly successful people who often carry with them some personal hubris.

    During the late 1970s, Dr R. Meredith Belbin and his assistants carried out research on the nature of teams. They worked mainly with business managers, and the research was conducted at the Administrative Staff Colleges at Henley in the United Kingdom and at Mount Eliza in Victoria.

    One research finding was that teams comprising all highly talented and intelligent people proved the least effective. This was described as the Apollo Syndrome, after the Apollo space probe launched at about the same time as the conduct of the research. Members of these teams generally possessed great individual talent accompanied by very high egos. They tended to be super critical of others and were intent upon defending their own positions instead of addressing the issues and reaching realistic solutions. In Paul Rizzo’s terms, they operated as a team of “individual champions” rather than a “champion team”.

    The best results were produced by teams with a balance of attributes, attitudes, personalities, skills and capabilities, and which focussed on the tasks in hand and individuals worked together effectively.

    How can boards and executive teams affected by the Apollo Syndrome be influenced to improve their performance and produce acceptable outcomes? The answer is through the application of strong and intelligent leadership, which is surely the reason why we have highly paid Chairpersons of boards and CEOs of executive teams.

    And ensuring that such effective leadership is provided is an issue deserving much more attention that it presently receives.

    Peter McDougall

    26 February 2003