Creative LeadershipEngaging CultureMedia Production

Do Your People Have a Stake in the Outcome?

Early in my career I did something that I’m still ashamed of, even after all these years. I was given the opportunity to travel with a medical mission organization to the headwaters of the Amazon River in Brazil to document a remote village and the missionary efforts to reach them. It was an amazing trip. The mission team was headed by Barry Dennison, and we were gone for more than a month. We flew into Manaus, Brazil – about halfway up the Amazon. Then took a light plane for a few hours further up river. Then we charted a
freighter for two more days, and finally traveled by dug-out canoe for the last day. I was told later by executives at Sony that I was the first person in those days to take a video camera to the headwaters of the Amazon River. We were as remote as I’ve ever been, and in the pre-cell phone days, went literally a month with no communication with the outside world whatsoever.

From a logistics perspective, Barry and his team set it all up. They arranged the transportation, hotel, food, guides, etc, and my job was to do all the filming. I did a good job with the shooting of the project, but since I had no stake in the logistics, I complained about everything. As a twenty-something newbie, I acted like I was an “expert” and wasn’t happy with the airline schedule, hotels (or hammocks in the jungle), food – anything.

Later, I realized what a putz I had been, but by then it was too late. Years later I found Barry again, and apologized for my awful behavior. But that realization taught me something very important:

The people who complain the most, are the people who have no stake in the outcome.

People who’s job depends on performance don’t complain much because if something fails, it’s their fault. But the members of you team or employees in your office that aren’t directly responsible for the success or failure of your project or company, are usually the first ones to whine and moan.

Good constructive criticism is good. But whining and complaining sow seeds of strife that will destroy a project, company, or organization.

So make sure every member of your team has a stake in the outcome. Make sure they’re responsible for something that matters. It will make a dramatic difference in their attitude – and your chances of success.

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  1. Phil,

    This post hit me square between the eyes today and popped them wide open. This succinctly encapsulates one primary reason that a number of my co-workers (myself included) do so much whining and complaining around my organization. We have very little stake in the outcome (i.e., As a communications director and graphic designer, I'm merely expected to take whatever [crap] emerges from the higher-ups and 'make it look pretty']. There is very little understanding of the value of someone like me in this position.

    I get it now … and further confirms my suspicion that I should either stake a claim for myself, ask for more authority and use it, or find another opportunity elsewhere.

  2. Both my father and grandfather worked as missionary pilots with the Ticuna Indians in the Amazon. I grew up there as an MK. That's so neat that you've been there. I plan to return one day and shoot part of a feature film in Benjamin Constant were I grew up. What tribe did your team document?

  3. The Gospel is so simple….we do "stumble right over it."  Whether it is our modern age with gadgets and quick fixes or the Amazon jungles or the "back side of the desert" plowing a field in the tractor headlights of a Kansas wheat farm, there are plenty of Martha and disciple complaining opportunities.  I think we try to live the Christian life and make our organizations work without much thought and help from the Holy Spirit.  We often are so fixated on ourselves…my calling, my mission, my needs, my purpose, my world…my, my, my….where does dying to self and "taking up our cross, daily" fit in?  We are sometimes such a sorry lot (I  put myself in there, too).

    We don't do the "right thing" because we are so "earthbound."  We try to "gain the world" with the "my, my, my" and probably in the process risk the survival of our own souls.

    Thanks, Phil, this blog spoke volumes.

  4. Honest Question then. 

     If the my, my, my element is distressing, why the willingness to defend lavish televangelists and measure the success of their ministry by the prosperity in your life you attribute to it?

    I'm not trying to get a dig in or start an argument.  I'd be interested in knowing how you reconcile those, to me, seemingly disparate positions.

  5. No different than Jesus living a selfless earthlife and at the same time allowing a "year's worth wages of oil" to be poured upon his feet.  The, "my, my, my," could include earthly possessions, if one is consumed with idolatry.  We have plenty of wealthy OT and NT men and women who were devout in their service to Jehovah God.  Conversely, we have the rich young ruler who worshipped the creation more than the creator.   Either way, your preconceived judgement of my heart has no relation to the jist of Phil's blog.  On the otherhand, if your question was truely honest, then I have given you an honest answer.

  6. I said it was an honest question.

    To demonstrate that, I'll let your answer stand and not question it further here.  I've never been able to honestly reconcile the two positions.

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