Last weekend on Father’s Day we were watching the U.S. Open.  The talk of the moment seemed to be less about the tournament, and more about the PGA Tour agreeing to merge with Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf.  This change was kept quiet, as most mergers and acquisitions are, until it came to fruition.  Once that happened, I started hearing familiar rhetoric from some of the best golfers in the world.

The commentary from several individuals was something along the lines of “I had no idea…I was not told anything…this is a shock…how could this happen without my knowledge and/or consultation?”

I have heard these complaints before.  Not from golfers, but from professional sales people.  During my role as sales leader in the legal support industry for roughly the last decade, I was engaged with several mergers and acquisitions.  My job was always two-fold:  Hit revenue targets AND keep team members engaged and away from competitors trying to exploit the transition.

Sounds easier than it was.  And the team members who brought the most resistance and challenges were the ones producing at the highest levels.  When, an individual sales professional is able to generate revenue for a company in the seven figure and above range, a certain entitlement is also claimed by that person.  Their sense of self-importance grows wild, because along with such an accomplishment can come massive ego expansion.  Suddenly the elite salesforce believe their contributions, and therefore THEY are the center of that company’s world.  They begin thinking, without me what will they do?  I can take my revenue and my network of contacts anywhere I want!

This is actually a bit of a joke, because non-compete agreements are usually in place to prevent salespeople from taking business and contacts with them to their next job.  But still, the elite seven figure salesforce see themselves as irreplaceable.  They have no administrative or managerial tasks, nor do they shoulder day to day stressors of the business.  Yet they believe themselves to be working elbow to elbow with the Executive Management Team.  They are believe they “besties” with the CEO, the CFO, the COO and on down the line.  And in doing so, some individuals become presumptuous bullies trying to get their way by throwing their weight around.

What does this have to do with PGA and LIV?  Well, nothing really, except my understanding that when people believe themselves to be more important than they are, they start “getting offended” at the thought of not being part of the power nucleus that makes major decisions.  When acquisitions and mergers took place, it was often the elite sales people that were straight up pissed.  They would complain “I can’t believe no one told me this was coming…” or “Seriously?  I don’t agree with this, I should have been consulted, maybe I will take my talents and contacts elsewhere.”

And there it is:  Human nature showing up in two completely different arenas but in the exact same way.  Just as my former sales people let themselves get “offended” that no one consulted them of an upcoming structure change, the PGA golfers were having the same reaction:  “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

And in the moment of becoming offended, the salespeople, and the golfers, realize in no uncertain terms, that they are, in a sense, a commodity.  Though most of their days were spent living “on top” of the proverbial heap, these business decisions, made independently of them, brought them back down to Earth.  In case they thought they were “elite” they now realize that at the end of the day they are just a revenue number in the bigger game of profitability.

I don’t share this dynamic lightly.  I know what it feels like to be acquired both as an unknowing sales professional, and also as a leader anticipating most of what was happening.  In my experience, no one likes to be left out of loop.  But only certain personality types expect that they will always be at the decision making table.  And when they are not, they feel befuddled, overlooked, unimportant beyond the revenue they contribute.  And in that moment, they feel like a commodity.  Their egos are bruised because the truth can hurt.

And the truth is that in a for-profit enterprise, we truly are only as valuable as the revenue we generate.  I don’t find this offensive.  Mostly I find it encouraging.  Because I know that I can keep my position as long as I bring the dollars.  So the expectations are clear and I know what to focus on.

But I also understand the disappointment of feeling that I am part of something bigger than myself, only to find out that I am only as valuable as the financial contribution my work.  There is something that feels just a little crappy when we realize this.  The energy in that environment can become apathetic and robotic even.

Which is why I chose to leave it two years ago.

But my message today, is intended to bring some relief to those of you who find yourself offended that you are ultimately just a number.  This is the very nature of the “for-profit” system.  As long as you are in the for-profit game, via sales, golf, or anything else that contributes revenue to a corporation, you ARE just a number.  You don’t have to take it personally.  You just need to produce and play the game.

Those of us who are not offended that we are only as valuable as the utility of our contribution, don’t waste time letting our egos get inflated.  We focus on what we do uniquely well and let that be our contribution.  We stand firmly on our personal understanding of our self-worth, and don’t give our power away by worrying about whether or not anyone else seems to grasp it.  Once we know who we are in our own eyes, we stop looking around for validation.

Whether or not you are working as a commodity, you don’t have to shrink because of it.  Step into the strength of your individual, human value.  Own it.  Share it.  Polish it.  As long as you are defining your own worth and not leaving that function to people outside of yourself, you won’t get offended by anything.

Plus, sometimes mergers and acquisitions can be the best thing since sliced bread.

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