I’ve never been a big fan of titles. To me, not only are they insignificant, but they also fail to serve any useful purpose — a story relayed to me by one of my early mentors crystallized this feeling.

While this mentor was a geologist for a gold prospecting company, he worked his tail off in the field, grinding out 10-hour days. After doing this for a couple of years, he went to management and demanded a raise for his efforts.

They replied that they didn’t have money in the budget for a raise, but they were willing to make him a director. He accepted, but it took him two more years to realize they’d bought the same labor from him for two more years without giving back the additional compensation he felt he deserved.

Unless you’re in the military, titles shouldn’t matter. The smaller and nimbler the organization, the more important it is that each employee is dedicated to the company and its opportunities rather than his or her job description. With that mindset, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the CEO or the water boy — you’re always doing what it takes to win.

Titles don’t carry money, power, or influence; more often, they just slap unnecessary labels on people. Rather than let our titles define us, we should let our work and effort do the talking.

The Dangers of Labeling

When my company merged with a partner, longtime employees from my organization received different titles than equally experienced employees from the other company. This made our team members feel as though they were lesser than their new colleagues, like they were being devalued during the merger. This lowered employee morale and severely harmed our culture during the shift.

Traditional workplaces stick to titles because they make things simpler, but they rarely accomplish anything meaningful. When everyone’s trying to jump from junior to senior to manager, efforts to improve turn into battles of egos and politics.

In fact, the more the workplace values status over production, the more people will try to defend their status at the cost of what might be best for the company. Removing status from the equation frees team members to focus on the things that actually matter.

How to Work Better Without Titles

Coaches like to tell athletes to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. The same logic should apply to the workplace — we don’t need subheadings on our nameplates to know that what we’re doing is important. We just need a little common sense and a few strategies to make a smooth transition to a business that doesn’t depend upon rigid titles.

1. Give people the autonomy to define themselves. My favorite strategy for handling titles is to let new employees pick their own. You want to be the chairman of enthusiasm? Sure! You want to be the chief of staff? Why not? Let people define themselves, and they’ll tend to feel less stressed, more connected to their jobs, and more like they belong at the company.

2. Highlight unique roles. I have a speech that I give all new hires. In it, I tell them that they technically don’t work for me — they just play a role at the same company. If they perform well, so will the company. That way, individual wins are group wins (and vice versa).

Zappos did something similar by eliminating manager titles internally. A receptionist who affects everyone who comes through the door is as much an executive as the CEO — both play vital roles for the organization. At the other end, an EVP with a bad attitude often does more harm than good. Everyone has a part to play, and playing yours to the fullest makes a title irrelevant.

3. Lead by example. If you must have titles, make them fun — and be the first to show your employees that you mean it. No one will shed their titles if you keep “founder and CEO” outside your office door. However, if you change that to “junior Little League coach” or “senior golf enthusiast,” people will follow your lead and see that you practice what you preach.

Don’t let titles define your organization. Instead, shed these designations or make them afterthoughts so you and your team can focus on the important things that keep your company productive and strong.

Once we let go of titles, the path to professional — and, therefore, financial — fulfillment can become much clearer. Click the link to get the first three chapters of “Wealth Can’t Wait,” my new book, for free — you’ll gain insights on how to navigate those pending financial responsibilities as well as you’ve navigated the title talk.