4 Ways to Recognize Team-Members Without “Skin in the Game”

We are not sure where the phrase “skin in the game” originated but it is commonly used to describe someone who is connected to the results of the game, someone who is not just watching but who is deeply connected to how it is played and what the results are.

People on a team, whether in ministry or organizational life, who have “skin in the game” approach work very differently than those who do not. Those without skin in the game offer their intellect but without their hearts. They bring their skill without bringing their commitment to the team or the team’s mission. You can sometimes sense when someone is not “all-in,” but here are four common ways people without “skin in the game” reveal themselves.

1. Someone without skin in the game uses “they” instead of “we.”

If a person speaks of the overall ministry or organization with terms like “they” or “them,” it is a good indication the person doesn’t own the overall mission. Or even believe in it.

2. Someone without skin in the game doesn’t show concern for the overall.

If a person does not show concern for the overarching mission, the person is only executing a task and not committed to the overall team. If there is not rejoicing in overarching “wins,” there is no “skin in the game.” If there is not concern for overarching “struggles,” there is no “skin in the game.”

3. Someone without skin in the game resents requests outside “the job profile.”

In every ministry or organization, there are times when people are asked to do something outside of their role. Perhaps growth has created the need. Or perhaps a vacancy in another area has created the need. Regardless the reason, those who are “all-in” respond very differently to the requests than those who are not.

4. Someone without skin the game likes sophistication more than simplicity.

Someone without skin in the game cares more about grand ideas than actions that actually impact people. Those with skin in game are connected to the work and it forces them to find solutions that solve real problems. Those without skin in the game tend to love complexity as it gives them a reason to stay disconnected. In his latest book, “Skin in the Game,” Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes:

“Skin in the game brings simplicity – the disarming simplicity of things properly done. People who see complicated solutions do not have the incentive to implement simplified ones… Things designed by people without skin in the game tend to grow in complication. There is absolutely no benefit for someone in such a position to propose something simple: when you are rewarded for perception, not results, you need to show sophistication. Non-skin-in-the-game people don’t get simplicity.”

Serving alongside people who have “skin in the game” is so rewarding.