Can You Be A MVP On An Underperforming Team?

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Coaching, Driving Productivity, Employee Coaching, Good HR, HR, HR & Sports, Performance

This time of year is my absolute favorite. It’s a time for gathering with family and friends, reflecting on the past year and making commitments to be better in the coming year. Nice, huh?

But if you work in the corporate world, it’s also the time of year when you’re forced to devote hours of your life that you’ll never get back on the waste of a process known as the annual performance review. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be another blog about how crappy the performance review process is – I know it, you know it… so let’s be done with it, ok? Instead, I want to talk about if it’s possible to be a MVP type contributor on an underperforming team. In my opinion, the answer is no.

If you use sports as an analogy for organizations (and here at FOT that’s our specialty), then sure, you can be recognized as an All Star… but you’re not as likely to win a MVP award if your team stinks. There seems to be an unwritten rule that to be recognized as a true great, your team has to have achieved some level of success like making the playoffs or winning a championship. The rationale being that part of what makes top talent truly great is the ability to elevate the play of their teammates and make everyone around them better. Think of Tim Duncan as an example of a great that you’d build a team around and Carmelo Anthony as an excellent player but not someone you’d really want to build a team around. Bet Phil Jackson wishes he stayed retired.

In the corporate world, every year we as HR Pros have a MVP vote when it comes designating someone as a high potential or in doling out bonuses and raises. All too often we get it wrong and only look at individual performance – Johnny exceeded his sales targets last year by 100% and ignored the overall performance of their teams – Johnny’s team missed their overall goals. Johnny’s the classic slugger on a last place team. Continually acknowledging these “sluggers” only reinforces individualistic behavior. If that’s what you want, then don’t change a thing. But I suspect your organization wants more.

So what can you do? Two things:

  • Find them a boss who knows how to use their talent to better the team and surround them with people who have complimentary skill sets. Often these All Stars don’t know how to make others better until they’re set up to do so.
  • If that doesn’t work then keep on naming them an All Star and give them certain perks that go along with that status (higher than average salary and bonus) but don’t reward them like a MVP (top level salary and bonus, special development opportunities) until their team performs at a higher level.

See you next year!