Team building Napoleon style

In all likelihood, the first name that comes to your mind when thinking about teamwork probably isn’t Napoleon Bonaparte.

But after spending an hour or so last week listening to Rick Griggs talk about team building, I couldn’t help but feel a bit bad about giving Napoleon short shrift (no pun here, the emperor was actually about 5-feet, 6-1/2 inches tall, which in his day put him at about average).

Griggs has taken the lessons of Napoleon and weaved them into an easy to read book, “Triumph in Teams: 350 Ways to Spark the Arc of Team Achievement.”

The book offers advice and answers to dozens of questions about building a successful team, including: How do team members’ backgrounds move the team forward or backward? What bridges must your team cross? And, who should go first? How does a team benefit by anticipating reversals of fortune? How do “fairness” and “luck” fit in the team’s march toward progress? Is failure part of success of the result of poor planning?

The book is Griggs’ seventh. He founded Griggs Achievement in 1983. The company pioneered the concept of professional balance, which combines career accomplishment and life balance.

In the book, Griggs weaves historical accounts of lessons that Napoleon learned and applies them to team building for today’s business professionals.

One of Napoleon’s biggest blunders was hesitating at Waterloo. Since his army was built on artillery, he waited for the ground to dry before advancing. That decision cost him the battle. Euripides said that “the god of war hates him who hesitates.” Napoleon would have done well to have remembered his history.

However he isn’t the only world leader not to take heed of the past, Griggs notes. Napoleon won Moscow, but lost 400,000 of his men during the march home in the dead of the Russian winter. Hitler made the same mistake during World War II.

Griggs sums up the concept quite concisely: “Those who look back & see further ahead.”

One of Napoleon’s more successful battlefield decisions, to divide and conquer (which allowed him to prevail against the Russians and the Austrians at Austerlitz) can be applied to one of today’s more common catch-phrases, multi-tasking, or as Griggs calls it, multi-mediocre. His advice, in teamwork as in war, is to always concentrate your forces.

And just in case you’re thinking it’s a stretch to link the lessons of Napoleon to today’s world, consider this: Odd-even street addresses (odd numbers on the right, even numbers on the left) were Napoleon’s idea.

Funny how something like that has stuck around for the last couple of hundred years, isn’t it.

Find out more about Rick Griggs, Griggs Achievement and “Triumph in Teams” at Griggs will be making Napoleon presentations April 23 at the Fort Collins Marriott and April 30 at the Denver Adam’s Mark.