Cléber Zavadniak Website

The perils of thinking you and your team are special

From time to time I stumble across some team (or entire company) in which people somehow “entitled”, special, far above the average, and that’s sad.

It’s sad because truly amazing people are not only competent and excellent but also humble and eager to improve. And people eager to improve see most things as opportunities to grow and become better than they are now, while non-amazing people somehow think about themselves as some sort of enlightened beings, still living among mortals only to show them the path to the light - or not.

Now, there are few non-amazing people in this world, actually. But you need just a bunch of them to create a non-amazing team. And, as far as I can see, it’s dangerous to simply let this impression of superiority infect people, because teams that feel this way are very unlikely to “take a step back” and question if whatever they are doing is actually being done the best way. They get defensive if their perfection is questioned, considering that different opinions are attacks to their own traditions.

Also, this feeling makes the team doubt if an “outsider” can be really on par with “such a greatness”. Instead of seeing different ideas as an opportunity to see things from another point of view and possibly improving things, they tend to think that different ways are necessarily worst ways and then integrating a new person in the team becomes a matter of “teaching him/her our ways” instead of a mutual learning ritual as it should be.

As the time goes on, it becomes more difficult to hire new people (the team see that as a nuisance, not an opportunity), more difficult to onboard new people (“we now have to teach them our way”) and more difficult to retain people (the environment is toxic).

The challenge, of course, is: how to create engaged teams without falling into this holier than thou attitude? In my opinion, by emphasizing the joy to learn more than just praising the team in some gratuitous manner. Just saying “we want to hire the best” is not enough: define whatever “the best” means! The best people are people who are born amazing and perfect? Or the best people are flawed people who are continuously seeking to improve themselves?

As the Bible says: before honor is humility (Pv 15:33).

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