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How to Be a MVP at Work

Patrick Nelson, June 19, 2017


How to Be a MVP at Work

Imagine for a second that you are starting a chicken farm. Your goal is to have your flock of chickens produce the most number of eggs possible. Would you want a coop full of high preforming MVPs or a flock of average but consistent chickens? Conventional wisdom would say to take the MVPs but some interesting research on productivity in the workplace has shown us that may not be the best decision.

In her TED talk, “Forget the Pecking Order at Work,” Margaret Heffernan talks about the research of William Muir, an evolutionary biologist at Purdue. He studied egg laying productivity using two teams of chickens. One team was comprised of “super chickens” (the MVP’s) and the other was a group of average chickens. Muir studied these chickens for six generations and found that the average group of chickens out produced the super chickens by a wide margin. In fact, only three super chickens were still alive. The MVP chickens, those that were considered individually productive, had only achieved success by overpowering the other chickens in their group.

When we think of a MVP on a sport team, we often think of the person with the most touchdowns, home runs, or points (or in terms of chickens, those that produce the most eggs). But, in the office, individual success is not what makes a person an MVP. The MVP’s in the office are the ones who are able to effectively collaborate, give their best effort, and leverage everyone’s strengths and weaknesses to accomplish goals.

I recently visited an office of a client that does not have a manager. I saw first-hand what it is like to have no one in charge and everyone working together to do their best. In other words, this office was stacked with MVP’s. This highly productive office consisted of motivated employees who are given real responsibility and not micromanaged. It was not due to the absence of management, but the presence of clear expectations and collaboration that allowed them to thrive.

So, what can you do to create an environment like this and become a MVP at the office?

  • Learn to appreciate your team’s strengths and weaknesses. We all have challenges and limitations. For many people, it can be difficult to talk about what we are not good at. Be vulnerable with your weaknesses and encourage others to do the same.
  • Keep your ego in check. A healthy dose of ego is okay but we know what it looks like when someone’s ego gets in the way.
  • Have the courage to invest in relationships. Take a few minutes to ask questions and listen to your coworkers. This will help build trust and safety within your team, which in turn helps encourage others to speak up and share their opinions.
  • Establish your credibility. Maintain your commitments. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Hold each other accountable for missed performance expectations and use them as coaching and mentoring opportunities. (Check out these resources on building your credibility.)

Like the groups of chickens in William Muir’s experiment, teams at work cannot succeed if each person tries to compete with one another. To become a MVP in the office, put aside individual success and encourage your team to work together.

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