05/07/2014 12:01 pm ET Updated Jul 07, 2014

My Team's Selfishness Is Great for Our Clients


Selfishness. It's an ugly word. And yet, nurturing selfishness -- inviting it into the light, treating it like something beautiful -- has benefitted my company's clients in immeasurable ways.

I run a virtual marketing communications agency; my team works from home offices all over the world. I encourage each person on my team to selfishly (openly, honestly) communicate where, when, and on what she'd like to work, so we can together create a work experience that she loves.

Talented, responsible people produce fabulous work and deliver amazing client service when they're happy. They invite talented, responsible, happy friends to join our team. These rockstar individuals work together, producing even better work than if they were each working solo, and feel great pride in their work when our clients rave. They stay for years, rather than look for greener pastures. Why leave? Our pasture can be the greenest, our beach the most tropical. It's whatever each team member wants it to be.

One of our writers works most of the year from her home in Oakland, where she's furiously and fabulously productive. She also works a few weeks each year from her sister's apartment in New York, and at least a month from a tiny village in Provence, France. Do I worry that she's online an hour a day while she's in France -- or not at all? Am I affronted by her selfishness? Au contraire.

This incredibly self-aware marketing communications professional does us the great favor of telling us what she wants, and we plan accordingly. She takes care of herself -- she's healthy, fulfilled. She's playing super-auntie in NY; she's drinking rosé and eating glorious desserts in Provence. And when she chooses to work, whenever and wherever and on whatever she wants, she delivers amazing content. She never misses a deadline -- in any time zone. Our clients adore her. (The rest of us just want to be her).

Our company operates like a designer clothing swap. All projects are lovely -- for someone. Try what you like, and keep what fits. Give away what doesn't. The system works best when each team member selfishly, proactively chooses her preferred ensemble of projects. Although most of our projects are completed within a month or two, beautiful client teams come together and stay together for years -- good for all involved.

If a team member gets pregnant, wants to take the summer off, or simply plans an unplugged vacation, we'll offer her (clean and pressed) projects to the person best suited to next owning them. Because we're planning ahead, our client sees the smoothest transition, or none at all. Likewise, if someone wants to work school hours only, or at night after her children are in bed, that's her choice. As long as she delivers great work and service to our clients, and continues to wow her teammates, she should of course work whenever she wants.

Including never. If good people leave, our door is always open for them. I'm still trying to woo back a beloved 10-year Content Bureau writer who is currently employed by one of our former clients. She left for selfish reasons, and I sent her a bottle of Dom Pérignon (dripping with my tears) when she did. I hope she'll come back to us someday, for the same selfish reasons she left -- because we'd be the right fit for her at that point in her future.

Selfishness is my company's BFF. We bring it out into the light, put a sparkly tiara on it, and call it the best thing that's ever happened to our clients (and us).