Self-effacing Entrepreneurs Put Their Team Above Their Personal Self-interest

Team Above Self - the Team’s objectives supersede those of the Individual
The ninth tenet outlined in Core Values

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQzUtZpLJj7AWajhN5qy9WafF7aelm4F91a9R4sbuHS6kPHyMqSWhen I was an operational startup executive, I seldom lost my temper in the workplace. However, one of the few things that angered me at a base level was when an employee would place their personal interests above those of the company.

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Such behavior can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including cavalier spending: staying in an overly expensive hotel, buying a pricey bottle of wine on the company’s credit card or traveling during the week, even though it is cheaper to do so on the weekend. You can eliminate this point of frustration by encouraging all your employees to spend the company’s money as if it were their own. Given that most startups grant their employees ownership in the form of stock options, this proprietary sentiment is rooted in fact.

I would also lose my patience whenever someone expressed a “that’s not my problem” attitude. During the early days of a startup, if the company is facing a challenge, it is everyone’s responsibility to help resolve it (see the fourth tenet of Core Values).

A startup’s primary goal is survival. Organizations which work in harmony and focus their energy tackling external challenges, rather than dealing with internal strife, have a much longer lifespan and a higher probability of success.

Not Falling Is The Goal

As noted in Be The Beatles, instilling a common shared worldview and vision is an effective way to galvanize your team and encourage them to put the company’s well being ahead of their own self-interests.

Catch people doing things right and reinforce that helping their compatriots succeed is in their self-interest. Meaningful contributions, including one department’s support of another department’s success, should be rewarded and publicly acknowledged in a Company Meeting as a means of creating a Culture Of Celebration. If your corporate culture encourages and rewards such collaborative behavior, your team will realize that the company’s best interest and their self-interests are one in the same.

Long Spoons

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3471/3214956293_189c7b2679.jpgThere was once a world traveler who came across a group of gaunt, famished individuals who were skulking around a steamy pot full of a hearty stew. The traveler was initially confused as to why they were so malnourished, as the stew smelled enticing and appeared very appetizing.

She then noticed that each person held a very long spoon. The spoons were so long it was not possible for them to bring the stew to their mouths. She also noticed that each person was angry and antagonistic toward their fellow famished compatriots.

Feeling rather awkward, the traveler continued on her journey. After traveling a fair distance, she came across a similar pot of steaming, flavorful smelling stew. The people surrounding the pot were all well-fed, happy and very cordial to each other.

At first, the traveler was confused, as this group all held spoons of the exact same design and length as the first group. Why was one group famished and disgruntled while the other group, faced with the same challenges, was well-fed and content?

Don’t Feed On Each Other

Jeff Bezos advised his early employees at Amazon to Obsess About Customers, Not Colleagues.

The difference between the groups was the manner in which they interacted with each other. The second group used the long spoons to feed each other. By doing so, they not only ensured that everyone received proper nourishment, they also developed a healthy dependency and camaraderie derived from working together to overcome adversity.

Emulate Amazon and foster a culture that encourages team members to solve customer problems while feeding each other. Startups are typically too busy to deal with internal squabbles between team members. Thus, initially punish and eventually extricate any member of your team who undermines the culture of Long Spoons.

A team that builds each other up, much like the Beatles did during their ascendency, will have a much more enjoyable journey. Such collegial teams can also expect a more rewarding adVenture, as they can focus their collective energy on growing shareholder wealth, as opposed to scheming against their compatriots.

Emulate Amazon and foster a culture that encourages team members to solve customer problems while feeding each other. Startups are typically too busy to deal with internal squabbles between team members. Thus, initially punish and eventually extricate any member of your team who undermines the culture of Long Spoons.

A team that builds each other up, much like the Beatles did during their ascendency, will have a much more enjoyable journey. Such collegial teams can also expect a more rewarding adVenture, as they can focus their collective energy on growing shareholder wealth, as opposed to scheming against their compatriots.

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John Greathouse is a Partner at Rincon Venture Partners, a venture capital firm investing in early stage, web-based businesses. Previously, John co-founded RevUpNet, a performance-based online marketing agency sold to Coull. During the prior twenty years, he held senior executive positions with several successful startups, spearheading transactions that generated more than $350 million of shareholder value, including an IPO and a multi-hundred-million-dollar acquisition.

John is a CPA and holds an M.B.A. from the Wharton School. He is a member of the University of California at Santa Barbara's Faculty where he teaches several entrepreneurial courses.


Note: All of my advice in this blog is that of a layman. I am not a lawyer and I never played one on TV. You should always assess the veracity of any third-party advice that might have far-reaching implications (be it legal, accounting, personnel, tax or otherwise) with your trusted professional of choice.





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