There’s an important distinction that keeps coming up in our Weekly Planning Calls with entrepreneurs in the Strategic Coach Program and their teams: contribution versus status.
In the corporate world, the measures of success are often very status-oriented, like:
- “Where’s my office located?”
- “Do I have an impressive title?”
- “Am I working with the higher-ups?”
- “Is my salary bigger than other people’s?”
If someone with this mindset lands on an entrepreneurial team, they can really cause havoc, because they’re focused on their success, not the success of the team.
Nobody likes the swagger guy.
One entrepreneur told us about someone she hired who turned out to be “not a nice guy”: He walked about with a swagger, criticizing, undermining, and trying to gain power over people he thought were “under” him.
Finally, the entrepreneur had to let him go. He wasn’t a team player, and in an entrepreneurial organization, that’s a problem.
It’s better to be the MVP of the winning team.
Phil Jackson, who coached the LA Lakers and the Chicago Bulls, got his best players to pay attention to the entire team’s results—because having a single high-scorer on the team isn’t what makes you win the game.
It’s the same thing in an entrepreneurial business: Status is a by-product, but contribution is the goal. The way to achieve all the acknowledgement, financial rewards, and other perks of status is by creating meaningful value.
Put the focus on something bigger than yourself.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the business. Whether you were hired last week or have been running the place for 25 years, it’s key to stay focused on the goal of contributing.
- If you’re an entrepreneur or team leader: Make sure you direct the conversation and the culture toward acknowledging, rewarding, and having fun with contribution.
- If you’re a team member: Make sure you’re part of an organization that does, in fact, reward contribution.
- If you’re hiring: Listen closely to how your interviewee talks about their past experience: Is it all about them and the status-driven perks they now demand or about how they created value and want to make a difference? Yes, terms have to be negotiated, but only after it’s clear that this person wants to contribute something.
Focusing on contribution rather than status is one of those skills that simply works in any situation. When each person on a team has this as their goal, everyone’s capability and sense of enjoyment take a huge leap forward.
In the end, this is one of the very best things entrepreneurial teamwork teaches us: how to work together with others toward something that’s bigger than we are.