Leadership Perspective: What Are You Rewarding?
Most performance reviews and recognition programs don’t work. Companies continue to struggle in today’s economic times, and they continue to wonder why their employees are not engaged at work. There are no doubt a myriad of reasons we could list, some of which would be true; most of which are opinion based on current education and experience… Today, I’d like to share my opinion.
Leaders (for-profit, non-profit, political) – What exactly are you rewarding? What about a quarterly or annual target/goal gets you long-term results? Especially when your employees don’t know your long-term goal is?
Human nature works in very simplistic ways. From the day a human being, or sentient being, enters into this world we begin to “domesticate” them with how we respond to their behaviors. With observation, humans (cats, dogs, horses, cows, etc.) determine what behaviors get rewarded and which ones don’t. Sentient beings are naturally risk adverse, so they move quickly away from those behaviors not rewarded to those that are. This is the process we learn and continue to use throughout our lives as we move from home to school, from school to job, from job to job. And so it goes.
What are you rewarding? Here is some food for thought:
- Daily, weekly and quarterly production goals encourage short-term thinking rather than long-term creativity. It also encourages unethical gaming with the numbers.
- Unrealistic goals over a short period of time encourages manipulative competition, leading to unsustainable behavior and ultimately to unengaged employees.
- Performance goals are written, and rewards are given, for individual performance, when what is needed is team work and collaboration. What do you think happens?
- We reward companies who continue to increase shareholder returns and grow in a mature market through stock market analysis, pressure and continued investment. In order for them to continue growing profits and producing high shareholder returns, without creativity and innovation, they must reduce expenses – so they outsource the work to foreign countries – and unemployment increases.
- We reward people (some of whom are being impacted by the previous point) by paying continued unemployment and welfare when jobs are available, rather than providing training for the skills the companies are looking for. (I read recently that it was too expensive to re-tool our schools to provide the training that results in jobs – really?)
- Our government gives millions of dollars to medical research companies for development of drugs and new techniques in medical care. What are we rewarding? Treatment of symptoms not cures. What do we get? Expensive care that keeps getting more expensive, and is required for years on end because it rarely cures anything. We get bigger hospitals, providing more procedures to ameliorate health issues, rather than cure them.
As leaders, it is our job to determine the outcomes we are looking for, and to reward the behavior that yields those outcomes. Are we looking for a vital and growing company that attracts new investors? Perhaps we should reward behavior that yields this vitality.
Not sure what that is? Look to those companies who have happy and engaged employees. What do you see?
Jim Stengel, in his latest book “Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit” chronicles a ten-year study of the world’s fifty best businesses, including Apple, and concludes that those who centered their businesses on a culture of improving people’s lives had a growth rate triple that of competitors in their categories.
Martin Zwilling, contributing author to Forbes online, suggests “10 Ways to Build a Business Culture Like Apple”. For more detail, please read his most recent article.
- Communicate your dream and operationalize it.
- Be clear about what you stand for, inside and outside your company.
- Design your organization for what it needs to win.
- Get your team right and do it quickly.
- Champion innovation of all kinds.
- Set your standards very high.
- Train all the time.
- Do a few symbolic things to create excitement about what is important.
- Think like a winner, act like a winner.
- Live your desired legacy.
I would like to respectfully add #11. Reward the outcomes you desire, so you may live your legacy, and allow it to live on when you are gone.
Are you getting the results you expect? What are you rewarding?
Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.