Phil Mickelson and the Niche Principle

Just recently, 50-year-old Phil Mickelson, the “guy-who-too-old-to-win-another-major”, hoisted the trophy by winning his sixth major, the PGA Championship, held on Kiawah Island, S.C. His win reminded me of a leadership adage: 

Individualism wins trophies; teamwork wins championships.

An African proverb teaches us that many sticks bundled together cannot be broken. Together, we can do more and stand stronger - as a team. Everyone’s role is unique, and when everyone contributes - everyone wins. 

Dr. Phil Van Auken, Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Baylor University  teaches The Niche Principle. It is this: 

People who occupy a special place on the team 
feel special and perform in a special way.

Team niches humanize teamwork. It is essential for teams to place people where they will flourish - not just where they will fill up a spot. Everybody has a key role. This principle allows us to see the importance of everyone.

Allow me to illustrate: In 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. The president spent weeks recuperating, and came very close to losing his life. He was Chief Executive of the USA, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, arguably the world's most powerful man, and our nation continued running smoothly. The government operated well with the President hospitalized and incapacitated.

Ironically, a few months later in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there was a strike by the garbage collectors. Trash began piling up day-by-day. The stench was horrible and disease was spreading. The City of Brotherly Love was paralyzed! 

Time Magazine reported, "For 18 days, while municipal garbage collectors remained on strike, the waste mounted to an estimated 20,000 tons. Clouds of flies hovered everywhere; rats scurried from their rancid treasure. Plastic trash bags became toxic balloons, swollen tight by noxious fumes from the detritus inside. 'Trash entrepreneurs,' driving around in vans, carted bags away for 75 cents each. Along with their luggage, residents even began taking their rubbish with them as they left for vacations in the Poconos...[1]

President Reagan was out of commission for weeks and the country ran smoothly. The trash collectors went on strike and a metropolitan region of millions began to quickly unravel. 

Quick question: Who was more important?

We may not think certain people play important roles on the team. But if they're on the team they have very important roles to play. 

They make the team better.




Who on my team can I make feel special today?

What will I do to make that person feel valued and appreciated?

When will I do it?


[1] Time Magazine, July 28, 1986.