Do you have a “hero-based” culture?

Great People Are Overrated – Bill Taylor – Harvard Business Review.

How many times have you worked in a team where, there was one or two outstanding performers who always had the answer and were the “go to” people in the team? What 5 adjectives would you use to describe the culture / character of that team?

Heroes are everywhere. The are most noticeable in professional sports. The article linked above refers to some recent examples, most notably, LeBron James of the Miami Heat. We need heroes, the kind of people who step up in crucibles of crisis to make the great play, close the difficult deal, turn around the troubled project, or deliver on the unreachable milestone.  They are very much a part of our society, and they bring limitations as well as benefits.

Are  you staffing your team with heroes? Are you picking up the highest paid free agents in an effort to boost your team? Are you building an all-star roster, or are you amassing a multi-faceted team capable of taking on just about any challenge thrown their way? The key is assembling the right balance within your team to give people a chance to be a hero, even an unsung hero. Every hero is made. This is validated by the fact that they are presented with an opportunity to shine, and they step up to make it happen. Having heroes on your team is important, but an over-reliance on them is risk. Heroes without a supporting cast, can lead to under-achievement.

Taking a lesson from the article attached, I would agree that great people, heroes, are overrated, much like betting $1M at the roulette table is overrated. For every millionaire who has won big at gambling there are hundreds of thousands who have lost. For every Mark Zuckerberg, there are millions of technical entrepreneurs who never made it. In business and in life, an over-emphasis on heroes or heroic behavior can create issues like bad team dynamics, increased costs, and an unsustainable model for success. So, how do you create a balanced team in the work place?

The triple constraint of repeatable success in the work environment is:

  1. The right balance of structure (e.g. processes and standards that enable not inhibit),
  2. The right individual people who can be, but don’t need to be a hero (e.g. individual skills and self-confidence), and
  3. The right team dynamic (e.g. a mixture of complimentary skills with individual self-awareness)

No matter what line of business you work in, your will be a better leader by establishing an environment that periodically gives people opportunities to be heroes while creating a management system that reduces the dependency on “betting it all on the roulette table.”

2 thoughts on “Do you have a “hero-based” culture?

  1. Joe, this was an excellent writing. I was engrossed the minute I started reading it. In my opinion, the best heroes are the silent ones. The ones who don’t need an audience and are happy with a simple Thank You. Gratification might not be immediate but I believe we are all eventually rewarded when we least expect it. Doing the right thing when nobody is looking can make a hero.

    Love you and your work.

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