How To Spot A Winner

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Vietnam is wars ago on the American landscape. Nobody associates it with winning, yet it offered one of the best and most perceptive stories about winning I’ve ever heard. It seems General William Westmoreland was once reviewing a platoon of paratroopers in Vietnam. As he went down the line, he asked them a question: “How do you like jumping, son?” “Love it, sir!” was the first answer. “How do you like jumping?” he asked the next. “The greatest experience in my life, sir!” exclaimed the paratrooper. “How do you like jumping?” he asked the third. “I hate it, sir,” he replied. “Then why do you do it?” “Because I wanted to be around guys who love to jump.”

Dennis Connor, the man who put the blocks to Australia and won back the America’s Cup in four straight races, explained in a few words how he did it: “I surround myself with quality people that make me look good.” Winners also know how to bounce back after a hard hit. Connor’s crewman John Grant put it this way: “Dennis likes to know he has people who will make the right moves when things go wrong.” And that’s the right management instinct if you’re at the helm of a twelve-meter yacht or a billion dollar business.

Winners surround themselves with other winners.

A winner knows he’s a winner. He doesn’t need second-raters and yes-men around to feed his ego. He knows he’ll win more, and go farther, with associates who not only can keep up with him but who also are capable of teaching him something.

If you’re about to form a new business connection, whether it’s a job or a joint venture, don’t just look at your opposite number. Look at his subordinates.

Does he trust them? Does he delegate to them? Do they complement his talents by being strong managers while he’s an entrepreneur?

Or are they just his clones? If they’re weak, you have a problem. You’ll not only have your hands full getting anything done your way, you’ll also be completely dependent on your new associate’s personal capabilities and energy. There won’t be quality staff backup. Not a good situation in which to find yourself.

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