How the Hero Mentality Might Impact You!

The hero mentality is everywhere, and sport is a prime example. In football, the hero is the player that scores the goal. In cycling, it’s the rider who wins the sprint across the line. Even in mountaineering, the hero is the person who puts the flag at the top of the mountain.

However, the hero in each of these sports wouldn’t have achieved their accolade without the team behind them. Making the last-ditch tackles to prevent the opposition from scoring. Riding ahead for miles and miles to protect the energy of the sprint finisher. Carrying the excruciatingly heavy equipment that nourished and shielded the mountaineer on their way up the summit.

This same concept continues into the media, films, and television, as leading actors win the top prizes and fame. It’s no surprise, then, that this hero mentality trickles into our working and professional lives, too.

What does the hero mentality look like at work?

The hero mentality arises when value is placed on individual contributions. A person who saved the day because they fought the biggest fire, they have the most extensive knowledge, or they do the biggest, most impressive thing.

And in this case, it’s great for the heroes, of course. They feel pretty good about themselves, gaining praise from the organisation top-to-bottom. But what about the other people on the team?

Well, they don’t feel quite as good.

This hero mentality at work can be really damaging to the company as a whole. It can lead to information hoarding, so people wanting to keep ideas or projects to themselves. At the end of the day, it’s their individual contribution that is noticed and valued, so even though sharing is a better benefit for the rest of the team, there’s no incentive to do so.

Simply put, the hero mentality is a huge barrier to collaboration and teamwork.

Do you recognise this hero mentality? Perhaps you see it in a colleague, friend, or maybe you relate to craving to be the hero.

What encourages this attitude?

This hero-based mindset might be something that you, your team, or the company that you work for are encouraging completely by accident. It might have crept into your way of working without you even realising.

So, what encourages the hero mentality? Metrics like stack rankings are a great example. People are ordered based on things like the number of calls they make or the number of blogs they create. This promotes competition and enforces the idea that if you’re first, then you’re the best.

It really comes down to the things we do, say, and reward. Now, our natural inclination isn’t necessarily always to be the hero. As humans, we do want to collaborate. We see value in this, and so do most organisations.

Simply put, the hero mentality is a huge barrier to collaboration and teamwork.

Shifting from the hero mentality to the team working mentality

If we value collaboration and teamwork, then why does the hero mentality so often take the forefront? And, how do we change this?

Considering our individual contribution is undoubtedly very important for our own personal development. We benefit from our team leaders understanding our individual performance. Without this, we wouldn’t know how to improve, where we are lacking, or even if we’re happy with what we’re doing.

But often, that perspective completely misses the wider picture of how we collaborate, what we bring to the team and the organisation. So, what can we measure instead?

A great place to start is embrace a feedback culture. Collaborated on a project? Then give each other and the team lead feedback. How was value created? How was knowledge shared? How well did the team work together? This can also work with day-to-day responsibilities. How transparent is somebody on what they’re working on? Do they actively encourage others to collaborate with them?

Reviewing our entire contribution to the team is so valuable for understanding our strengths and weaknesses. At TOPdesk we have several Feedback Trainers whose aim it is to give everyone in the organisation training on giving feedback, with regular top ups. They actively encourage both positive and constructive feedback.

In addition to this, we have a 360-degree feedback document where colleagues outline competencies that they are working towards and they get feedback on these from their team members straight after a projects and collaboration. This even helps to augment the appraisal process where individuals and their team leaders can assess the feedback together.

Recognising the hero mentality is the first step

If you recognise this concept within yourself, your team, or somebody you know, don’t fret! Once we acknowledge the hero mentality within our working lives, we can begin to turn it around into the team working mentality.

How? Through feedback, giving praise for collaborative work, and not putting those would-be heroes on a pedestal.

For more on this topic watch Hannah present with British Computer Societies, where they deep dive into the hallmarks of a hero culture, uncovering practical steps to identify and overcome this mentality to build a healthy, strong, and highly effective team.

By Hannah Price

About the author: Hannah Price is a Service Management Consultant and Agile Coach here at TOPdesk UK. Hannah has over six years of experience in guiding organisations to achieve service excellence by connecting the people and technology, empowering teams to work better together. Hannah wrote about her experiences and we thought it best to share them with you too!

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