Yeah, don’t be a superstar, stupid!

bobocar2 1

I read this piece this morning from the CEO of BlackBerry, John Chen, and became immediately flabbergasted and infuriated. Yeah, just blend in with the other stiffs and constantly use the word “teamwork.”They don’t want you to be indispensable, it makes you hard to replace. This is just what these companies want, cattle. Original thought? Prudent risk? Entrepreneurial spirit? Can’t have that. You’ll upset our nice little apple cart. You need to be dumpable.

“It’s obvious that being good at your job is good for your career. But being a superstar can actually hurt it. I know how counterintuitive that sounds, so let me explain.
Most employees think that the best way to show value to their boss and get promoted is to aggressively claim credit and ownership over everything they do. While it’s important to be recognized for what you do and the value you add, grabbing the glory is going to turn off your co-workers.

And speaking as a CEO, trying too hard to show you’re a superstar tells me that you only care about what’s best for you, and not the company as a whole.

What if you’re successful in convincing everyone that you are a true superstar, the best at your job in the entire company? Well, being irreplaceable is a double-edged sword. It not only means you’re unfireable — you’re also unpromotable. Again, from my vantage point, why would I allow one employee to be promoted to another job if it creates a huge void elsewhere?

Can you believe this shit? I can. I experienced it.

The above picture is of my company car after I got through driving all night delivering radioactive medical isotopes that had gotten lost at the Phoenix airport. Having a distribution background, I knew where to look and how to handle the situation. I even made sure I had the bills of lading right next to me in the front seat in case I was stopped on the way to Tucson. Letters from customers soon started pouring in and I started getting noticed. In a big way. My distributor was always looking to hire me away. Internally, it was handled very quietly, lest they made the C-Suite nervous.

A few months later, the same type of radioactive medical material over shot Albuquerque and landed in Phoenix. I got the call at 1:00 am. The hospitals and clinics would have had to cancel all their patients for that day. Fedex could not turn it around in time. I called a pilot I knew that had his own plane and a hazardous material license, paid him $500 in cash and he was on his way as I watched the sun come up. Then I called my boss. You know what they say about forgiveness and permission. Still hearing about that one all these years later.

Then, there was the $9000.00 jet from Memphis to Phoenix that shook the home office but saved our butts, still getting ribbed about that. Thank you American Express. We would have lost at least 50% of our business on that mishap if we weren’t able to recover in time.

Sure, I was rewarded, in a small hotel room with a check and a hand shake from my manager. “Keep it under your hat.”

There are many more instances, but that’s not the point of this piece. This is not a lot of belly rubbing about trying to be a superstar, it’s about how big companies don’t want you to push them out of their comfort zone.

My problem was, there was no category for that type of above and beyond behavior. I saw the awkwardness of upper management when these stories started leaking out. I was bending the rules and creating new ones. They didn’t want it to get out for fear someone else with lesser experience would try and fumble. You can think out of the box, as long as it’s their box.

When I got itchy and ready for new challenges I was told they couldn’t think of anyone to replace me. So I see from Mr. Chen’s article, nothing much has changed. I have my own business now and handle it the way I see fit.

I will be my own superstar, thank you very much.

Please note: I welcome comments that are offensive, illogical or off-topic from readers in all states of consciousness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.