I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Everyone's a Starter

Through the years I have participated in all sorts of groups. There have been sports teams, both individually focused and team focused. There have been staff positions, working as a group to support students. There have been traditional jobs, which generally combine both the individual competition with group support.

Out of all these my favorite form of group activity has been the musical group. A successful musical group is trying to lift everyone in the group up. While there are often soloists and “star players,” the importance of each participant is nearly identical. So the group tries to encourage and inspire their lesser players to rise to the occasion.

This doesn’t seem to result in a homogenization of talent, but rather a growth of skills across all the participants. Everyone feels like they could be better. Everyone’s efforts matter. My high school band director liked to compare it to athletic teams when he would say, “Everyone’s a starter.”

It strikes me as curious that there are not a lot of successful examples of this attitude in business. I’ve seen some similarities as I’ve looked at young businesses. On paper they have the intention to be a supportive group that builds each other up. As they grow they write more about this intention while building structures directly in conflict with that goal. Creating salary bands and role differentiation that explicitly says, “These jobs are not of the same value.”

I wonder if a business could be built and maintained in a way that carries on indefinitely the idea of a supportive group where everyone is a starter? I wonder if human nature would allow the participants to maintain that attitude over many years of working together? I wonder how compensation could be defined to best support this structure?

I’m going to leave those things as questions for now. Perhaps they are good fodder for future thinking.