Imagine you're Tom Brady. You've won six Super Bowls. Three league MVP awards. Amassed a list of career records that runs to several pages.
Now you're a free agent. You can sign with any team, bringing not just your football skills, but also your profile: Television ratings, media attention, season-tickets and jersey sales...
In short, even after a glittering, 20-plus year career with the New England Patriots, you're still a catch, both on and off the field.
So what happens when you speak with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of the teams interested in signing you?
You don't wait for them pitch you. You sell them on why you're a good fit for their team.
You also don't ask for control of the offense. Or for special, Roger Clemens-like travel arrangements. Or to be given jersey number 12.
Even though you certainly could, you don't ask for anything special.
Instead, when you sign with Tampa Bay last Friday, you only ask for one thing:
The phone numbers of your new receivers.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times:
(Brady's) preparation, as usual, was next level. He knew all about (head coach Bruce) Arians' offense and was eager to operate it. He could recite, by position, the list of offensive weapons. He was intrigued by the notion of having two Pro Bowl receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
He didn't ask about them as players.
He wanted to know, 'Are they good guys?'
Brady knows that every football player knows his name. Knowing who he is, though, is one thing. Building a relationship? Building a sense of rapport, and hopefully trust? Actually knowing him as a person and not just a player?
That's another thing entirely.
Brady, just like every successful person who joins a new team, knows he needs to build new relationships extremely quickly.
So he clearly plans to take the first step in building those individual relationships: Calling to introduce himself. To talk football. To talk goals. To make plans to work out together.
He could, like most players (and especially most stars) just show up for the first day of practice. No one would be surprised.
But instead he's taking the lead, taking the responsibility for building relationships... and immediately setting the right leadership tone.
In short, he's taking the emotionally intelligent path. Talent is obviously important, but the ability to work together, check egos at the door, and make individual sacrifices when necessary is the only way a team succeeds.
Think about the teams, in sports or business, that you've seen fail. Rarely was that failure due to a lack of talent. More often those teams failed due to personality conflicts, ego clashes, or competing agendas.
As Bill Simmons writes in The Book of Basketball:
(The Lakers and Celtics) were loaded with talented players, yes, but that's not the only reason they won. They won because they liked each other, knew their roles, ignored statistics and valued winning over everything else.
They won because their best players sacrificed to make everyone else happy. They won as long as everyone remained on the same page.
By that same token, they lost if any of those three factors weren't in place.
Nearly every great team -- in sports and in business -- includes at least a few superstars.
But those teams fall apart when everyone isn't on the same page. When people don't feel comfortable asking tough questions. When people don't feel comfortable providing input.
When people don't feel comfortable with challenging and pushing others, and being challenged and pushed in return.
Those relationships are what helps turn a collection of individuals into a successful team.
And is a process that Brady clearly feels a few phone calls will help him start to build.