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The Bozo Explosion

June 25, 2019

Have you ever found yourself desperate for help, for a team member to work on your project, for a volunteer to sign up for your organization? The timeline is crunched, and you’re feeling pressured to find someone fast. So you lower your standards. You justify it in your mind—it’s only one person; it’s only one time; it won’t make that much of a difference.  

You later find that you’ve unintentionally set off a chain reaction, and you look around and realize you’re no longer on the A team. You’re on the B team or the C team. You’re in the middle of what Guy Kawasaki calls a Bozo Explosion.  

Steve Jobs once said, “A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of a B and C players.” Guy Kawasaki worked directly for Steve Jobs, and he explains this principle in an article titled “12 Pivotal Lessons Steve Jobs Taught Guy Kawasaki.”  

Here’s the premise: A players hire A players. If you’re an A player, you want to surround yourself with people as smart or smarter than you.  

To make this abundantly clear, let’s assign people a number from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most talented and 1 being the least. The smartest people, the 9’s and 10’s, don’t want to be the smartest people in the room. They want to be around other 9’s and 10’s. This is why the best musicians want to make and play music with other talented artists. This is why the best athletes desire to play with and compete against the highest-ranked players and teams. This is why the most intelligent people desire to study at the most prestigious universities.  

However, if you begin to lower your standards and allow B’s into your organization, they will attract C’s because they want to feel superior. Put another way, the same principle that applies to 9’s and 10’s, doesn’t apply to 7’s and 8’s. In fact, the 7’s and 8’s want to be around 5’s and 6’s in order to feel superior. They want to feel like the smartest or most talented people in the room. The 5’s and 6’s? You guessed it: they start to bring on 3’s and 4’s. It’s at this stage you’ve entered what Kawasaki refers to as the Bozo Explosion. If you invite one clown, you will probably end up with a car full of clowns.  

When you’re looking for talent and are feeling pressed for time, stressed out, and tempted to lower your standards, don’t. Don’t just settle for a warm body. The best organizations and businesses would rather wait longer to have the right person on their team than settle for a B or C player that’s the wrong fit for their company.  

Real talk: If you’re tempted to surround yourself with people who are less talented than yourself because it makes you feel superior, you need to take a hard look in the mirror and evaluate your intentions. In every circumstance, whether you are the CEO of your organization or in an entry-level position, you should work hard to surround yourself with people who push you to be better.  

This takes a rare blend of confidence and humility. If you need a quick refresher on what this looks like, check out last week’s blog post.  

Here’s the bottom line: don’t set off the Bozo Explosion. Work to be an A player. Surround yourself with other A players. The work you’re doing is too important to lower your standards.

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