SPECIALISTS V GENERALISTS

In most races everyone has to be standing dead still at the start line.

Waiting for the off.

No one must move until everyone is given the signal.

Then everyone starts at the same time.

It works that way for running, swimming, horse-racing, Formula One.

But you can’t do this in yacht racing.

Sailboats can’t line up together and start the second the gun goes off.

Because they don’t have engines or brakes.

So how a serious yacht race, like The Americas Cup,  starts is that everyone has to wait behind the start line until the gun goes off.

But they’re allowed to manoeuvre.

Because what they want, is to be moving as fast as possible towards the start line and cross it just as the starting gun goes off.

But yachts depend on the wind.

And whoever controls the wind controls the race.

Because if your boat is between the other guy and the wind, he can’t get past you.

If he tries, your boat can just cut off his wind.

So, at the start of a yacht race, you normally need to be going as fast as possible, to windward of the other boat, just behind the start line, the instant the starting gun goes off.

This means constantly jockeying for position to try to get to windward of the other boat and stay there.

While he’s trying to do exactly the same thing to you.

And all of that is before the actual race even starts.

Which is why in serious yacht racing, the boats often have two captains.

One to take control during the actual race.

But one who is an expert just in starting the race.

You have a generalist and a specialist.

The Americans are big believers in the specialist approach.

Take American Football.

Every side has two completely different teams of specialists.

One team for when you have possession of the ball: the Offence.

And a completely different team for when the other side has possession: the Defence.

They even have a guy whose job is to do nothing but take spot-kicks.

When the occasion demands, he’ll come on and take the kick, then go off.

This seems silly to us.

But to them, that kick could be worth 3 points.

3 points could win the game.

So all the efforts of everyone on Offence and Defence could come down to that kick.

Now it’s not so silly.

Personally I like to work with specialists.

I like to work with people who think their particular job is the most important part of what we’re doing.

I like to work with people who are great at their job.

People who love their job.

I have a problem with people who consider themselves generalists.

It normally means they aren’t that interested in their own job.

Which means they don’t do it very well.

It also means they’re a bit bored with their job.

So they want to do my job.

Because it looks more interesting.

This means I lose both ways.

I haven’t got anyone doing the job that really needs doing.

Their job.

And I’ve got someone, who’s not as good as me, interfering with me doing my job.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of input.

I’ll have input into other people’s jobs.

I like them to have input into mine.

But everyone has to understand who’s in charge, where.

Everyone has to be responsible for their own area of expertise.

Just like the two captains on the yacht.

If the overall racing captain starts interfering before the start, he ruins the other guy’s concentration.

He’s not as good at what the specialist does, as the specialist is.

So they could lose the race before the start.

No, you need to get the best guy for the job.

Then get out of the way and let him do his job.

If he can’t, then you’ve got the wrong guy for the job.

But you need to trust him to do his job while you do your job.

A team works best when everyone does their own job.