The prima donna—and the REAL star

Amorimphoto |

Amorimphoto |

A friend of a friend of mine played varsity basketball in college.  Brian was never a star, but always a good solid team player with good stats.  Most of all, he could be relied upon, on or off the court.

He didn’t get much attention from the press or the fans because he was overshadowed by a hot shot I’ll call Troy.  Troy was the guy who’d make the three-point shot at the buzzer or do the bob-and-weave, dance-and-fake moves that dazzled the other team and put points on the scoreboard.

But as I watched them play, I began to notice a pattern.  If Brian got the ball, he would immediately look around to see who was in the best position to make the shot.  More often than not, he’d pass.  Once Troy had the ball, though, you knew he’d be taking the shot himself.  He saw even his own team members as obstacles to be gotten around on the way to His Big Moment.

When they both reached their senior year, it was time for the team to vote for Senior MVP.  Brian was sure Troy was a lock.  Troy was sure too.  And they were both wrong.  It was Brian.

The Most Valuable Player isn’t the one who puts the most points on the board.  It’s the one who did the most to advance the team’s goals as a whole.

The same is true in business.  Sometimes the last person to get on board in a culture transformation is the big shot, the star—the one who “knows” he or she is indispensible and is far too busy grooming in the mirror for the next close-up to give a thought to what’s good for the team.

Maybe he has twice the sales numbers of the second place salesperson.  Maybe she’s a genius at schmoozing clients.  But if they can’t get on board a positive culture transformation, I have news for you—he or she ain’t your Most Valuable Player.

Culture is everything.  Sales numbers don’t drive culture—culture drives sales.  Allow a prima donna to smirk on the sidelines while everyone else is hard at work building something new and the tail is wagging the dog. 

As your new culture takes root, your “star” will fast be eclipsed by the skyrocketing productivity of those who had been in his shadow—and you’ll have everything to gain and very little to lose by telling your star player, in no uncertain terms, to get on the team bus or hit the showers.

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