“It is lazy to consider this merely an era of enhanced ego and greed. This is an era that craves creative freedom, and it extends far beyond sports. The dream job isn’t a destination but a vision to build a franchise around your exceptionalism.”
This quote is from a column in the sports section of The Washington Post from May 2021. “For Aaron Rodgers and a new breed of superstar, a dream job is no longer good enough” explored the trend of NFL superstars, primarily quarterbacks, moving on from the established teams where they achieved their fame.
Take a few minutes and read the article. I’ll wait…
It’s Not About Sports or Superstars
You’re back? OK, what was the overriding theme of the story? If you said high-value talent craves collaboration and the organizations that resist are vulnerable to losing that talent, then big bonus points for you!
You may come away from the article thinking that Aaron Rodgers is just a spoiled, egomaniac, who is throwing a temper tantrum because the Green Bay Packers aren’t doing things his way. That’s what many folks felt about Tom Brady leaving the perennial contender New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; a team that had only two winning seasons in the previous ten years. However, Tampa Bay’s new (relatively) head coach, Bruce Arians, is known for giving his quarterbacks creative license to perform on the field. As Brady and Rodgers face the twilight of their careers, they chafe at rigid systems for which they have little or no input.
While the systems may be successful, these dream teams (in this case the Packers and the Patriots) view their superstar quarterbacks as commodities. And eventually, someone younger, faster, and cheaper will replace them.
Rodgers and Brady see themselves as more than talented commodities. They believe they’re strategic assets who continue to contribute levels of high value. They’ve gained experience and wisdom that enable them to continue to perform at the highest levels late in their careers. They want, not just recognition for their performance, but opportunity and discretion to operationalize their wisdom.
Motivating Strategic Assets
This is a common theme among workers in all industries. Dan Pink, in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Amazon Kindle link), notes three motivating factors: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. These factors are the secret to high performance and satisfaction — at work, at school, and at home. They fulfill a deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.
These three motivation factors are geared to strategic assets in organizations. And assets provide greater lasting value than commoditized expertise.
Organizations that continue to rely on carrot and stick (reward and punishment) approaches to employee motivation will continue to attract commodities and lose their strategic assets to wiser firms.
But, I’m Not A Superstar
If you can define your value — your unique value — and align it with an organization’s needs, then you are, indeed, a superstar.
Think about it. How many people do you know who can actually do that — align their value with need?
Most position descriptions advertise for commoditized roles: Candidates with X years of experience, Y amount of education or certifications, with specific responsibilities are encouraged to apply. HR is seeking round pegs for round holes, and most any peg that fits will do. That is a commoditized role.
However, if you can determine the REAL need of the person who matters — the hiring manager, their boss, or their customer — and you can demonstrate how your skills meet those needs, well then, that’s being an asset.
And assets are few and far between — they’re superstars.
So, how are you defining your value? Are you able to demonstrate that you’re an asset? Email me at email@example.com. I want to know what you’ve got to say.
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