Trace3 IT Leadership

Insights on Innovation

Earn Your Way

Entitlement is like a cancer.  If left untreated it spreads and can ruin an organism.  I recently finished an all day meeting with the top 11 sales people in the company.  We discussed many things in the meetings but one of the main theme’s we really honed in on was “Defining a Homerun.”  It is a topic I used to write about a lot and ended up being a pretty incredible discussion.  Here is why…

Most all the people in the room had been with the company for more than three years.  I started the discussion by asking each and every one of the 11 team leaders to write up on the white board their “Homerun” when they started at the company.

For those unfamiliar with the term, “Defining a Homerun” is a concept where a team member defines for the group (or leader) exactly what it is that would be a homerun for them.  It might be a certain level of W2 income, Quality of Life, becoming a VP, helping others succeed, etc.  The key for me is not what it is, it is whether a person can actually articulate it.  If an employee cannot define their homerun to you, then your job as a leader becomes much more difficult.  When interviewing people I always ask them to define it for the following reason.  If they can tell me what will make them happy (their homerun) then I stand a much better chance of helping them achieve it.  If they can’t, well we know how that ends.  Now back to our meeting…

Each of the 11 people got up and wrote their homeruns as of their first day with the company.  We went around the room and each of them spent 3-5 minutes storytelling.  They described who and how they were in their old jobs and why they joined us.  They discussed things like quality of life, being associated with an “A” team (brand uplift), making more money, autonomy, and many other things.  One of the homeruns was a simple “try and not get fired.”  That one got a chuckle.

I thanked them and made a new column on the whiteboard.  I titled it “Current Homerun.”  Then I gave them a 5 minute break and asked them to come back ready to write down and discuss if their Homerun had changed in their tenure with us.  Before they walked out, I told them that one of the most dangerous things in business is when you hit your homerun.  Hitting it can put you at a crossroads in your career.

They rejoined five minutes later and did what I thought they would do.  They wrote down new homeruns that looked like this: Understand and help my team achieve their homeruns, Fully grasp and understand how to build risk back into the team, Scale instead of stagnate, Become an effective leader, Lift others and remove roadblocks for better performance, Get back to a player coach model so I can mentor more, Build a team that offers true value and stands alone in the marketplace…

Pretty powerful stuff.  As we talked through each point, concerns came up too.  They wanted to avoid doing the same thing day in and day out.  Boredom was an issue.  They wanted to spend more time with their families.  For some control versus delegation was a difficult topic.

But ALL were VERY worried about entitlement creeping into their teams.

You see, many of us took on tremendous risk (career, financial, brand, time) in order to create this company.  Many took great risk in creating their businesses from scratch within this company.  We spent a good 10 minutes discussing this fact and how it is true in every single company, not just Trace3.  The ones that succeed in taking the risk and overcoming it get the chance to build teams.  When they do, the homerun changes.

You see many of the early homeruns have a huge dose of “JUST SURVIVE” in them.  Many of those early homeruns were selfish.  Not in a bad way; but they were focused on self because before you can truly take care of others you need to secure your foundation.  Years later, with their financial needs being met, they build teams in order to scale.  They focus on the team’s homeruns.  It is good to understand most of the individual members of those teams are now just like that leader was 3-5 years before.  They have homeruns that are selfish.  And that is not only expected, it is good.  Helping them secure their futures is part of being a leader and if you do it right, then once secure, they will pass it on.

The one HUGE difference is these 11 leaders for the most part have hidden the RISK from the team members.  Risk they had to endure when they began their journey to their original homerun.  They see it as their job to shelter the team from risk and in that mode they create room for entitlement…

Earning your way in any company means taking on and accepting risk from your leader.  When you sit down with your leadership and define your homerun the immediate next step should be for the two of you to begin discussions on how much risk you are willing to bear to achieve the homerun.  If a leader’s goal is to shelter his team from risk by bearing all the risk upon her shoulders, they will build a team that cannot scale.   Notice I did not say a dysfunctional team.  It could be quite functional actually.  It would just not scale.  And we all know how “A” players feel about being on stagnant teams…

As a leader you want to secure the family and create massive opportunity.  Nowhere in that statement does it say all the risk of building a business must be on your shoulders.  Match the risk to the homeruns and help your team earn their own way.  Do that well and they will do it for the next generation of team members.  Do it poorly and suffer entitlement.

(this is an excerpt from the 2014 playbook I am writing for Trace3)

Hayes Drumwright

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