Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison’s announcement Sunday that he was giving back his 8- and 6-year-old son’s “participation” trophies because they hadn’t earned them struck a chord around the interwebs. His belief is spot on, from my perspective. I’ve often thought that giving trophies to anyone who shows up sets a bad precedence, and makes one complacent and a bit soft.

The mindset that everyone should be a winner, that you should be rewarded just for showing up, and that going above and beyond to avoid hurt feelings might work in grammar school. But what about the real world? In an era where more and more millennials are testing out their entrepreneurial wings, did that kind of grooming set you up for success or failure?

The answer: Both… maybe. It really depends on the degree of the "everyone's a winner" (EAW) atmosphere you were steeped in, your personality, and your relationship with such an environment. As an entrepreneur, there are pros and cons to growing up in such a culture. However, the best tool you have is the ability to recognize that kind of conditioning and either embrace it when it helps or discard it when it's a hindrance.

“Good job, Jimmy! You’re a winner!”

For the upsides, consider:

You probably have a little extra self-esteem and confidence:
You can be a kind leader:
You see more potential:

Of course, the EAW mindset doesn't come without downfalls for employees. Be wary of these traps as you move forward in your venture:

A lack of drive:
Successes aren't as meaningful:
The competitive spirit can suffer:

Handling kids with kid gloves is one thing, but there's no place for it in the startup world. Now that it's your turn to create a culture, make sure you design one that best serves your business and your employees. It's time to get a little franker and more real, and your business is the perfect platform to make it happen.

Published on: Aug 19, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.