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Sports Illustrated published a feature not too long ago on the greatest sports dynasties of all time. And as you might expect, it prompted considerable debate among sports fans across the country. In fact, when sports talk show hosts face a slow day, they can always ask callers that simple question—what's the greatest sports dynasty ever?—and the phone lines inevitably light up.

Fans from UCLA and North Carolina will want to talk college basketball. Pro basketball fans, depending upon where they grew up and how old they are, will make cases for the Celtics, the Lakers or the Bulls. Some will talk about football, college or pro. Others will defend the cause of more obscure sports teams—Iowa's wrestling program or Arkansas' track and field squad.

One thing all of these teams have in common is that they maintained success over time even when the makeup of their personnel changed. They didn't rebuild; they reloaded.

In the past, I wrote about the "revolving door principle," which is simply a way of pointing out that all organizations have gains and losses. Just like a revolving door in a busy office building, people are always coming in and going out of most organizations. Leaders who understand the dynamics of this principle build and maintain the best teams—the teams some might classify as dynasties.

Anybody want to build a dynasty?

As a starting point, let's look at the phases of every team's revolving door. This will provide the foundation needed for building and maintaining a great team.

Gain-Lose Phase
When you start a team, your gains are greater than your losses—at least when it comes to numbers. After all, you start with nothing. When a professional sports league adds teams or when a university athletic department adds a new program, finding players isn't a problem. But the gains are not always good.

In the beginning of a journey, some people join simply because they see movement. They don't know what's at the end of the line; they just hope there's a drinking fountain along the way. So while more people are coming in the revolving door than going out, some lack all-star potential and others are playing the wrong game.

Lose-Gain Phase
As a team begins to take shape, a good leader makes expectations clear and the people on the team understand the commitment required. When this happens, the losses are greater than the gains—at least when it comes to numbers.

But while more people are walking under the exit sign, the team actually benefits. It loses the uncommitted, the people who don't really want to be there. And the team often picks up speed because it no longer carries so much dead weight.

Gain-Gain Phase
As a team picks up momentum from success, more people want to join. When a college football team goes to a post-season bowl game, its coaches use that success to recruit the best high school players in the nation. "Come here and play for a proven winner!" So not only is a growing team adding numbers, it's adding quality—the best want to work with the best.

Lose-Lose Phase
The irony here is that the lose-lose phase generally happens to the most successful teams. Because of their success, they begin to lose people—their best people. Why? Because their best people decide to start their own organizations or because they become the target of headhunters.

In sports, this looks like a college basketball team losing its best player to the NBA draft—after his freshman season. In business it looks like General Electric under Jack Welch. Because it develops such great leaders, GE also loses great leaders. If you're successful, everybody's going to come after your best people.

If leaders understand these phases and know where their team is in the cycle, they can take steps to better manage the revolving door—to keep the best coming in and others moving out. Leaders who recruit well, train well and treat people well still lose people from time to time. But their team stays at the top.

This article is used by permission from Dr. John C. Maxwell's free
monthly e-newsletter: Leadership Wired available at

Author Biography

John C. Maxwell
Web site: Injoy Group
John Maxwell grew up in the 1950s in the small Midwestern city of Circleville, Ohio. John's earliest childhood memory is of knowing that he would someday be a pastor. He professed faith in Christ at the age of three, and reaffirmed that commitment when he was 13. At age 17, John began preparing for the ministry. He attended Circleville Bible College, earning his bachelor's degree in 1969. In June of that same year, he married his sweetheart, Margaret, and moved to tiny Hillham, Indiana, where he began his first pastorate.

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