Home Zynga’s Pincus Says Teamwork Trumps Talent In Business

Zynga’s Pincus Says Teamwork Trumps Talent In Business

With the Super Bowl less than a week away, I am reminded of 2002 and the New England Patriots, which defeated the St. Louis Rams and won the NFL title that year despite being labeled a clear underdog. During the player introductions, each Rams starter soaked up the limelight one after another. The Patriots however chose to enter the stadium as a team, waiving their rights to player-by-player introductions. The Patriots went on to shock the world by upsetting the talented Rams team, and ever since, Super Bowl teams have followed in their footsteps by entering the field as a team.

But what does football have to do with startups? According to Zynga’s Mark Pincus, football of a different sort helps enables him to identify which people will be successful in business and management. Recounting a story from his days of playing soccer in school, Pincus says teamwork, not talent, helped his school reach the state quarterfinals – a lesson he has carried with him to the boardroom.

“The one thing I learned from that was that I actually could tell what someone would be like in business, based on how they played on the soccer field,” Pincus said in an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times. “So even today when I play in Sunday-morning soccer games, I can literally spot the people who’d probably be good managers and good people to hire.”

With smaller companies, it’s easier to communicate with each employee and make sure they’re all on task and contributing to the game plan, says Pincus. But when companies expand to hundreds of employees, this becomes impossible for one CEO to manage – so why not make more CEOs? That’s exactly what Pincus did.

“I said, ‘By the end of the week, everybody needs to write what you’re C.E.O. of, and it needs to be something really meaningful’,” says Pincus. “And that way, everyone knows who’s C.E.O. of what and they know whom to ask instead of me. And it was really effective. People liked it. And there was nowhere to hide.”

Pincus says this management style has allowed Zynga to achieve more without his direct involvement in every decision. By placing more trust in his employees and empowering them to take control of their piece of the puzzle, Pincus has been able to focus on doing his job – being a CEO.

Disclosure: ReadWriteWeb is a syndication partner of the New York Times.

Photo credit: dearbarbie and Crunchies2009.

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