Individual Heroes

Individual Heroes

BIG RULE: No Individual heroes.

Let’s say you’ve helped build a billion dollar company. You were bought out by a heavy hitter like Google or Facebook, or very private side of the US government. The CEO/Founder of this company used to be nothing but a person with an idea. Then someone along the way helped him out, and he grew into CEO. Long story short his mother/father/care-taker or uncle raised him up and helped him to think, to lead, and to figure out what to do next (Godin).

His team of brilliance combined all of their efforts together and covered each other's gaping weaknesses and shortfalls. Then they did something that many people would applaud today: made a billion dollars.

There's no Lone Ranger in this story. Even if there is one person at the helm of the ship, steering and steering well—it's really about the other mates on deck doing their part. Whatever part that may be.

We have a rule in all the teams that we work with, "There are no individual heroes.”

It's amazing how people will literally bathe in their own accolades. It happened a few times with the people we were working with and caused a lot of underground tensions. One person would eat up all the glory and his teammates would watch him doing so, developing resentful feelings toward that person.

Nothing is ever done by just one person. Even if it is, there is a mom to thank somewhere for going through the pain to get you out into the world.

Now with the rule in place, everyone wins. People know not to say "I did this…." and "I accomplished that…" All great reports start with “We…." and “Our team…" All bad reports start with "I messed up…”

If you're in charge, it's your fault when things go wrong. When things go right, it's your team’s fault.

At Startup Weekend Harare, I was a mentor to the group Q4YOU, an app that solves the long line (called “queuing”) issues in the region. The team leader, Allister Banks, always gave props to his team. So much so that while pitching during the final, he broke the rules and called his teammates on stage and organized a group hug while the judges were still asking questions. I really think there's a market for that app by the way.

A few things to note when you start raising your head to receive the glory:

  1. You're nothing without other people.
  2. You'll always have weaknesses that you won't be able to fill.
  3. Glory only lasts for a few short seconds. Whether you’re receiving a Grammy or an inter-company award, you might as well share the love.
  4. A slice of pie shared with a few friends is more enjoyable than an entire pie devoured by yourself.

No one ever feels over-acknowledged or over-appreciated. So when one “hero" is taking it all, someone is feeling slighted.

Even if you are the one doing most of the work, defer the glory and deflect accolades. Then, watch as your team culture soars.

(photo via articularnos)