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    Taking One for the Team

    By: Jeff Gau
    April 26, 2012

    Today is the day I am unveiling my new blog format – where I focus on providing feedback to your leadership questions. I have enjoyed receiving your questions; keep them coming. I am going to kick this off with an interesting question from Peter, a fellow sales guy:

    “Once in a while my CEO says as a salesperson that I should be willing to ‘take one for the team’ to get the deal. As an ethical person, I sometimes struggle with this. What are your thoughts?”

    We’ve all heard the phrase “take one for the team” and even echoed it ourselves, usually followed by a smile or chuckle. The concept has been around for a long time and as a salesman and now CEO, I have happily – taken one for the team – many times in my career and sometimes still do.

    So, when is it a good thing and when has it gone too far?

    A Recent Experience
    Just recently, a member of Marco’s sales team was asked – indirectly – to “take one for the team” when a client requested a trade-out. The deal would allow the client to get the equipment he needed for his business while providing our company a significantly discounted price on a product we use.

    Our salesman could use the product, too, but the reality is that he likely would not and would rather have the commission. So, while both companies benefit, our salesperson would be “taking one for the team.” We recognized that in order to be fair, we should provide some form of reward for the salesman, and we certainly did.

    The Fairness Test
    Here’s a 4-part test I think can help you determine if your act of “taking one for the team” is good – or going too far:

    · You’re on a true team.
    In my experience, if you are part of a true team that shares the same goal and is working together toward a common outcome, you’re often willing to do what it takes and go the extra mile. Whether it’s attending a charity event after hours, resolving a customer problem (that’s not your fault) or even taking a reduction in commission, you’re willing to do it to help out a fellow team member and support the greater good. “Favors” like these come back to help you. I can think of quite a few employees who have earned a reputation as a team player because of their willingness to “take one for the team.”

    · It’s an exception to the rule. 
    Whether you’re an ownership culture or not, taking one for the team should not be a way of doing business. It has its place in business, but only as an exception to the rule. Period.

    · Supports the Golden Rule of doing on to others.
    As a leader, I’ve found that it’s a good practice to never ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do yourself (if you could). “Taking one for the team,” by definition, requires a sacrifice, but it should never compromise ethics, legality or the Golden Rule.

    · Provides a shared benefit.
    This is critical and often the point that determines if we have a right to make the request. “Taking one for the team” goes too far when the benefit is one-sided. The act should not pad someone’s pockets at your expense or leave a member of the deal at a disadvantage. Each team member needs to benefit in some way. For example, when an employee takes on a position with new – often riskier – responsibilities, they are technically “taking one for the team”. They may be leaving a familiar, secure position to help the company launch something new – in hopes that the opportunity will reward them in the future.

    While “taking one for the team” can be overused or used in the wrong way, it can also provide a sense of teamwork in an organization. No matter the position they play, everyone wants to be a part of successful team. 

    What do you think? Please share your thoughts on “taking one for the team” below and post a leadership question that’s on your mind.

    Topics: Leadership
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