Guest comment: Don't go it alone

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If you want to get to the top you'll need to be a team player, says Deirdre Kenny, managing partner at search firm CTPartners.

How do you succeed in a business where your contribution and performance are measured individually, but to win you must play a team game?

More than ever, in today's banking environment there is a significant overlap between the stars and the team players and the two are not mutually exclusive. To deliver star performance you will need to be able to trust others and rely on their help.

Many of those 'others' will be outside your business area. Competition for the business of global clients is no longer dominated by legacy 'house' relationships, or by two or three star players. Banks are looking to provide comprehensive solutions to their clients, and that means involving colleagues in other departments.

If you want to make a career out of being a team player, the role of the player-manager offers one route up the career ladder. The player-manager is a revenue generator, but also has managerial responsibilities and so needs to possess a blend of technical and people-management skills.

This can prove a challenge for people who have successfully demonstrated their revenue generating capability, but don't have the skills needed to manage and lead a team. Moreover, the transition to becoming a player-manager can be a difficult one - we recently surveyed 22 banks, only eight of which felt they were proactive in supporting players who wanted to make the managerial move. The message is that would-be player-managers need to take matters into their own hands and ensure they develop the portfolio of people skills necessary for the role.

This is not to say there is no place for stars - banks need both team-player and solipsistic profiles to succeed. However, if you are a star, it's worth considering that it can be a more risky route - you will lack the political capital to sustain you during difficult times, and how many times has a star signed through a transfer deal not produced the same results at the new team, because the style of coaching and teamwork were different?

Research published in 2004 (Groysberg et al), based on an in-depth industry study of 1,052 star stock analysts working for investment banks in the US, found that when an organization hires a star, the star's performance falls - and there's a sharp decline in the functioning of the group or team the person works with too. How many organizations will tolerate that during a downturn?

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