I grew up in the 80s. Rock and roll, in all flavors, was part of my DNA. Especially the heavy stuff. From Joan Jett to Anthrax to The Misfits to Yngwie Malmsteen, crunchy chords and killer solos were my thing. I played guitar (my favorite being a purple Charvel I upgraded more than my BMX bike). I had a Carvin half-stack amp in my garage that shook the small Cleveland suburb I grew up in. I even did a short stint in a band called Terror (seriously).
Point being, I loved rock music and the stars that performed it. It was a big part of my life and it let me express myself in a myriad of ways – most of them a bit reckless. Like most people, though, I lived and learned through it.
James Bond has a license to kill. Rockstars have a license to be outrageous.”
– Gene SimmonsBack to the future, I come across a job postings for a “rockstar” designer, developer, producer, or the like every week. Each time I roll my eyes. No, that's not quite right. I actually close my eyes and let out a long painful sigh at the thought of actually having to work with a rockstar, regardless of their area of expertise.
It sounds cool, I guess, to suggest that someone is a rockstar-caliber candidate. But let’s explore the association between what the label rockstar really implies and what employers and coworkers really want. Because, frankly, I just don’t see the match.
For the record, I’m not suggesting every rockstar is a mess. But the general connotation – or the ‘persona’ as my UX friends call it, or the ‘archetype’ as Carl Jung called it – simply isn't loaded with positive traits for being a desirable teammate.
Play along with me on this one.
It's just me myself and I:Rockstars generally come across as egocentric, impulsive, and out of control. They often thrive at being the center of attention and can do some extremely selfish things in the name of fame and personal success. They have also been known to do very irrational and dangerous things when reality throws them a curve ball.
Think of all the rockstars who took their own lives. Or the ones arrested for assault, drug use, and even violent crimes. Or the ones that couldn’t get along with the rest of the band – which resulted in a nasty breakup. I don’t want to call out anyone by name for fear of some slander-based lawsuit, but if your memory isn’t rich with the topic just Google rockstar and: suicide; drugs; money; assault; or any other negatively-associated keyword. The results are seemingly endless.
When we weren't being transcendent we specialized in self-inflicted disaster.”
― Saul Hudson aka Slash
In all of this there’s a sense of irresponsibility that pervades the term rockstar.
Great teammates aren’t irresponsible or saturated with selfishness. Their personal needs aren’t placed above those of the team around them, which is core to why they’re a valued team player and trusted partner. They look out for one another. They're dependable, supportive, and continually looking for ways of making things better for themselves and those around them. One could even say they’re somewhat predictable in their reactions when things get tough: They step up. These are the types of traits I want to elicit when I look for a new employee.
I want you to want me:Rockstars often live for validation from other people. Great teammates don't.
I suspect that fear is a driver for a lot of rockstars. Fear of being what they were as a child; fear of being ‘normal’ like their friends and family back in Iowa; fear of failure; fear of not having enough of, well, everything. Way up high they can't bear the thought of coming back down to the rest us.
Fear and insecurities often manifest as putting other people down in order to rise above them. We'll see rockstars wearing lavish clothing and expensive jewelry, owning a stable of exotic and expensive cars, and getting into trouble with their behavior. (Ironically, they buy all of this stuff with what once was our money and flaunt it right back in our faces. Remember this the next time you ‘can't afford’ something.)
Great teammates don't elevate themselves above the team around them. Their genuine connections are built on personal relationships, with a focus on raising the team collectively. Sure, everyone has different motivators, personalities, and flair for fashion – and healthy competition within the office environment can be very constructive. But the underlying reason great teammates may separate themselves from the pack is different from rockstars. Self expression is important whereas self worship is toxic.
Simply put, being one among many, as an equal, is a critical condition for being a great teammate, and a leader. I think a healthy indifference of what others think about them is the root reason for this – from interns to CEOs alike.
What other people think of me is none of my business. One of the highest places you can get to is being independent of the good opinions of other people.”
– Dr. Wayne DyerBeing true to one's self while doing amazing work with other people is an intrinsic motivator for great teammates. I highly advise you include this type of language, implicitly or explicitly, in all your job postings.
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto:Look, I don’t follow modern pop culture. I’m stuck in the 80s when it comes to music, games, and, well, general awesomeness. I still own and play an Atari 2600, and I consider WarGames and Ghostbusters to be some of the best movies ever made. So I'm clearly a bit disconnected.
But I did catch wind of the recent Grammy Awards, and was thrilled to hear about Beck being recognized for album of the year. Watching several weeks later on a video site, I saw a man genuinely surprised and out of place on stage; a wonderfully talented musician amongst a sea of new-era rockstar entertainers. When he gave credit and thanks to others involved in achieving this award I actually believed him! Quite unique in an environment set up for the famous to feel even more famous amongst themselves, and where swift, half-hearted thanks are often given to the dozens if not hundreds of people who actually made these entertainers the center of attention they have become.
My point here is that rockstars generally take credit for the hard work of others. In reality they're the front-person for a much lesser-known and lesser-paid supporting cast who really should be getting a lot more recognition (and money).
Credit is something that should be given to others. If you are in a position to give credit to yourself, then you do not need it.”
– F. Scott FitzgeraldRockstars also attract weaker-minded people to them like groupies and paparazzi who only fuel the flames of their illusion of importance. Sure, they're tools of the much larger industry of entertainment – but I would bet that a large number of celebrities actually believe that they're more important than others around them. There are millions of photos and news articles to support this.
But thinking you're better than other people is very different than being great at what you do.
Great teammates learn to take praise and compliments with a grain of salt. I think they have an inner knowing that their successes relied on the efforts of many others around them. They’ve demonstrated to me that, while they take pride and credit (and accountability) for their work, they're the first to point out the contributions of others on their team.
That said, thank you Virginia Raike for the proofread and edits to this article!
Going full circle, I hope you see why I say don't hire rockstars, hire great teammates. Rockstars are great at breaking up our routines. They're great at getting on the news, getting noticed, and giving us something to talk about – and sometimes they're even great at making music. But being a professional career partner just isn't their specialty; and the label isn't a positive one in team environments.
That's my advice, take it or leave it. But consider this: The next time you post a job for that rockstar candidate, you just might get what you're asking for.
Gunter gleiben glauchen globen.
Originally Posted on Linked In By:
Meet the Team
WorldBridge Partners earned the Best of Staffing®Award for providing remarkable service quality. Fewer than 2% of all staffing agencies in the U.S. and Canada earned the 2015 Best of Staffing Award for service excellence. With satisfaction ratings more than three times higher than the industry average, the Best of Staffing winners truly stand out for exceeding expectations. This award identifies the staffing industry's elite leaders in service quality.