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A Test Designed to Build the Right Team

SCOTT SIMON, host:

If you build it, they will come. If you can't build it, he will come. He is Herb Greenberg, the founder of a company called Caliper, that for years has been matching employers and prospective employees. Most recently he's been making matches in the world of sports, creating something called teamness. Mr. Greenberg joins us from Princeton, New Jersey.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Mr. HERB GREENBERG (Founder, Caliper): Oh, it's very good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And how does this help a sports team? What do you mean by this term teamness?

Mr. GREENBERG: A team is more than an addition of all its parts. Anyone who follows sports knows of basketball teams where they say there aren't enough balls for the five players, because each one is an individual. There are other teams you know that the talent isn't that great, not one all-star and yet the team wins. So it's how people integrate with one another that's just as critical as a talent of any individual.

SIMON: Hmm. So you tell sports teams, don't necessarily go for the best players but look for - look for - if I might put it this way, look for athletes who play well together in the sandbox?

Mr. GREENBERG: Well, that's right. If they're smart, that's exactly what they do. They need - obviously they need the talent, as any business needs the talent, but they've got to be able to integrate in order to be able to win.

SIMON: Irresistibly, I have to ask, because when we take a look at some of your clients - Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Devil Rays - I have to - among your clients you have the Chicago White Sox, who won the World Series...

Mr. GREENBERG: Right.

SIMON: ...best team in baseball. And you have the Chicago Cubs, who are world-rank doormats, who have won nothing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: So if you're giving them the same advice, why is it...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: ...working for the south side and not for the north side?

Mr. GREENBERG: Well, I think the important thing - whether you talk about sports, you talk about business - the important thing is still the talent, who makes the draft decisions, the scouts, and in some cases, luck. Let's face it. The Cubs lost their two best pitchers this year and their hard-hitting, homerun-hitting first baseman. Caliper is pretty good, Scott, but we can't get on the field for our clients.

I'm pretty proud, a couple of years ago, our two clients played against each other for the NBA championship, the Pistons and the Lakers. Our work is may be 40 percent of the deal. You know, what we do, hopefully, adds to the deal but we're not the deal, if that makes any sense to you.

SIMON: Mm-hmm. Well, can you give us a for-instance? I mean, the Los Angeles Lakers, among your clients, had what's supposed to be a classic example of two great talents that were just wrong for each other - obviously Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

Mr. GREENBERG: Right.

SIMON: So what was wrong there? And did you - did they ask your advice?

Mr. GREENBERG: No, because we didn't test either of those two players. They both came in - I mean...

SIMON: Did you say test? You test players?

Mr. GREENBERG: Oh, yeah. The test - really, what the test does is it gets inside an individual. You cannot tell...

SIMON: Can you give us a for-instance on this test?

Mr. GREENBERG: One of the important for-instances in sports are, is this individual competitive? Does he or she want to beat you, win in a one-on-one, minute-by-minute way, not just win the game. Will they dig deep to compete? Are they self-disciplined? Do they have the self-esteem to fail, to take rejection, to shoot that last shot and miss? Failure is the name of the game. If you're going to do anything, you're going to fail a certain amount of time. And if you can't rebound from that failure, you're not going to make it.

SIMON: Hmm.

Mr. GREENBERG: And that's an absolute reality in sports. You can see if a buy makes a great catch, throws the ball 98 miles an hour, that's easy. But what's underneath isn't that easy.

SIMON: Mr. Greenberg, nice talking to you. Thank you.

Mr. GREENBERG: Nice talking to you, and hopefully we'll do it again.

SIMON: Herb Greenberg, the founder of Caliper, and his new book is called Succeed On Your Own Terms: Lessons from Top Achievers Around the World on Developing Your Unique Potential. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.