Being part of a startup team means you must succeed as a team. Your individual contributions could be impossible to distinguish.

That can be difficult for some.

It’s human nature to want to know – to be certain – that what you have contributed can be clearly identified. Did you come up with the one positioning statement that universally resonated and became pivotal to customer acquisition? Were you the individual who proposed the pricing structure that will produce profitability?

It feels good to confidently point to these things – to be able to ascertain how much of a group’s success is actually you. We want that clarity because we believe we need proof that we contributed something unique and attributable only to ourselves.

That may not be useful. You might actually reach the wrong conclusion.

You’re subtracting what you’ve done from the team, and it’s all inextricably interconnected. A casual comment by someone else at lunch might have been the subconscious impetus for the killer positioning statement you concocted. Absentmindedly observing the way a team member ordered some office supplies could have quietly communicated the missing pricing piece puzzle to the equation you had been tossing around in your mind.

It’s all mixed together and it’s impossible to know that your thoughts – your contributions –are original.

Does it really matter? You are only one member of your team, and it’s the combined efforts of the team that will produce success.

We don’t hesitate for a moment to give shouts out to members of the Changelane team who come up with something absolutely amazing. They deserve the credit for sifting through all the confusing, messy and fuzzy connections to detect a clear path. They get the kudos for that and they deserve it. We also remind ourselves that we each may have unknowingly provided assistance.

We know that we must succeed as a team, and we’re learning that it’s perfectly fine to be unconcerned with keeping track of how much of the success is of our own making. It’s deeply humbling, and it’s likely the most important operating procedure we’ve learned so far.

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