Posted by JasonBlumeron Oct 9, 2015 in

One of our Customer Allies Cristina Fumagalli sent me the link to a Ted Radio Hour podcast episode called The Meaning of Work. This is actually something I've been thinking about since my client and friend Kade Wilcox of Primitive Social told me to read the book, Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller. I'm listening to that book now, and thinking a lot about work.

In the first part of the Ted Radio Hour podcast, we heard from Margaret Heffernan tell a story about a chicken researcher project. You'll have to listen to her explain it because she tells it better than I would. But suffice it to say that this parable looking into human behavior helps us see that we don't actually need rockstars in our companies. But you hear this all the time - "we're looking for rockstars!"

What is implied by a company's need for rockstars?:

  • "we want to hire a person with the best skills that trump and outshine all other employees."
  • "a leader that doesn't need help, but instead can tell us stuff instead of asking questions."
  • "rockstars stand alone and do their work on their own without the need for other humans."

We are in the midst of hiring in our firm right now, so this lesson is an important and timely one. This may sound like a slam against our team, but we don't have any rockstars. We have caring people that need each other. They often ask for help, and the owners give support as much as they need it. Our path forward requires the hand of everyone to accomplish our tasks, and it is required that the team bring up areas where our firm or client service is broken.

In hiring, technical skills are not paramount. We can teach those. In fact, we would rather teach someone how we do things (and not rely on how they did it at some other company). What is paramount is that our team leans on others, does their best work, takea risks to make mistakes, and seeka to take away fear and frustration from our clients' lives. Our firm is fully virtual, so team interaction is particularly difficult. We have to design around this truth, and put our team in situations where we need each other and where we seek to collaborate to deliver successful work for our clients.

Our best work is done in full view of the whole team. Anyone can comment on its merits, and suggest changes. I may create a new service and sell it, but someone else executes it, and then another team member will update it to make it even better (this is a real recent example).

Great work is never complete, and it requires tons of inefficient communication:

"Jason, I'm done with this project, can you look it over and see what changes you would make?"

"Jennifer, I've finished this blog post on #NoRockstars - can you reread it and make sure it reflects how we really operate in our firm? Change whatever you want."

"Cristina, let's meet a few minutes before our next client meeting to make sure we are on the same page, and that we are as clear as possible in our explanations to the client."

"Stephanie, I reviewed the tax return, and I wonder if you could print out the Tax Summary page that compares last year's tax to this year's? I think that will give us some good talking points."

"Hey everybody, here is mine and Julie's new strategy for growth over the next 2 to 3 years. Where are you fearful, or where do you think we need to improve to make this strategy a reality?"

A culture of #NoRockstars means we need everyone on the team to fulfill our firm matra: "we turn agency owners into mature business owners." Everybody has to speak up, and no one can check out. It's inefficient and takes time, but we are in the business of transformation. Transformation is a very messy business.

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