Rewards for Doing Your Job — Why would I do that?

But, Kevin, that’s his job!

An exasperated client exclaimed this to me after hearing—again—that she should get better at recognizing her folks, and to consider using regular accomplishments as the impetus, versus waiting for the one-off spectacular event.

She disagreed strongly, obviously. She felt that if people were just doing their job, they weren’t doing anything exceptional, ergo no recognition warranted or expected. “Their paycheck is a reward for satisfactory behavior,” she said. I’m sure no one reading this has ever uttered those words.

“Wrong,” I told her. “That’s just flat wrong.”

Since she is a football fan (assuming you actually consider the Jacksonville Jaguars “football,”), I used a football analogy…

I started playing school football in 8th grade. Mine was a small school, so most of us played both ways; I played right-side offensive guard and defensive linebacker. This is Texas school football, so believe me, they took it as serious then as they did through later years in high school.

Our starting quarterback was a guy named Gordon Williams, the son of our football coach (I’m sure that was just a coincidence). Gordon and I were friends before football came along, as we lived about 8 houses apart in a town of 4,500 people.

Anyway, we were playing La Grange, Texas (yes, the home of the famed “Chicken Ranch”), and we were trailing by a good margin. Gordon called a running play, handing the ball off to Albert Cubit (at the time, the fastest human being I’d ever seen), who headed straight for my right leg. My job was to pick up the middle linebacker who had been coming across unscathed most of the game.

And pick him up I did. Nailed him in the chest, likely surprising the daylights out of him, since I’d been something of a slug the whole game until then. Ended up laying squarely on top of him, while Albert pranced merrily into the end zone. Touchdown, Luling Eagles.

Now we were all happy, jumping up and down, slapping each other’s helmets (this was well before chest bumps and man-hugs), but Gordon cut through the crowd and the noise to reach me, grabbed me by both shoulders and said — yelled, actually—”Great job! Your block made this happen!” I beamed, I’m sure, like some stupid-looking 8th grader.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know I blocked, because I did. It wasn’t that I didn’t know we scored, because of course I knew. It was because I didn’t know how what I did actually affected the outcome.

You see, I was face down on top of that linebacker, and just assumed that Albert had done whatever magic he did when he had the ball. I didn’t realize that the team’s success at that moment was a direct result of my efforts. And all I had done was what I was supposed to do. I didn’t block two or three people, or chase down some errant interceptor. I simply blocked the one person I was tasked to block for that play.

And the team’s leader made me feel damned good about it. It’s been over 40 years since that game; I don’t remember any other play, game, or conversation. Heck, I have no idea of whether we won or lost to La Grange that afternoon. What I do remember, like it was yesterday, was Gordon Williams grabbing my shoulders, looking me in the eye, and saying “Great job!”

For “just” doing exactly what I was supposed to do.

“That which is rewarded is repeated.” It’s a basic tenet of compensation, and the foundation in changing human behavior. Don’t delay or save recognition in hopes of rewarding some heroic, superhuman event. Remember that blocking and tackling—the business kind, not the football kind—is what makes organizations and their leaders successful today. Show ’em some love.

But that’s just me…

(…and thanks, Gordon)

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Am I Developing, Training, or Coaching? — Who makes up all these words??

Sometimes definitions can help. In improving leadership talent, it really does matter.

In the classic movie “Princess Bride,” Vizzini was fond of saying “Inconceivable!” every time something occurred that surprised him. Not once, but three of four times before Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinton of Criminal Minds fame) finally said, “You keep using that word—I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Great word, sounded neat, not used correctly. The same frequently holds true when we use words like “Training,” “Coaching,” and “Development” interchangeably. They don’t mean the same thing, and their differences matter.

Training is foundational. It’s providing information, processes and methodology, in a controlled setting. It makes someone qualified to learn the job. Note I didn’t say “qualified to do the job,” but “qualified to learn the job.” Too often we like to think that Training = Qualified. It doesn’t. After training, people need relevant application and experience to actually master the skills trained. And they’ll need Coaching.

Coaching speeds up the experiential process, ensuring that an employee is gaining applicable skills as quickly as possible, and avoiding undue distractions in their growth. Sometimes remedial in nature, other times aimed at making good performance even better, coaching is always skill-specific, connecting the knowledge gained from Training to the relevance and proficiency acquired through practice and experience.

Development is preparation for growth and further success. It’s not about honing skills required currently, nor is it Coaching for improved performance, even for high performers. Development is providing new experiences and understandings in areas, topics, and focus not specific to an employee’s current job. Those last seven words are important: … not specific to an employee’s current job. (admit it, you went back and counted those words, didn’t you?). And unlike Training and Coaching —both specific, finite efforts—Development is programmatic, an ongoing process. Empowering to do part of a supervisor’s job could be development, as could be rotational assignments, higher-level skills training (leadership for non-leaders, for example), and most real mentoring efforts.

Development gets a lot more press than its brethren mentioned above, since most true empowerment effort are a form of development, and those frequently create that holy grail, “Discretionary Effort,” simply defined as those added efforts that employees are not required to give.

Now you get to say, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” And of course, you can carry a cool sword.

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Trust… Do you Really Need It?

When it comes to leadership development strategies, in most circles, trust gets a bad rap- particularly with quantitative or technical people. Why is this the case? Simply because people tend to think trust is a soft and fluffy topic, with an impact that’s really more minimal than crazy consultants like myself make it.

Trust is the Driver Behind Discretionary Effort

When I discuss executive development issues with clients, I tell them there’s a pretty good reason for worrying about trust and its connection to discretionary effort.  Discretionary effort is that extra element that your people don’t have to give you, but do. It’s above and beyond the requirements for keeping a job and anything greater than that minimum is solely the purview of the employee. The bottom line is they’re either going to give it to you or they’re not and that is almost entirely based on whether or not they trust you. (more…)

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The Power in Asking Questions to Identify Value

Measuring value for clients with clear, tangible results is important. But before measuring anything, we have to be very clear about what we’re trying to solve for. Without asking the right questions, it’s impossible to uncover any value, and measuring? Well, without a clear purpose, that’s simply a waste of time.

Identify the core issue correctly, then measure- there’s real value in that.

The Power of Asking Questions

The most powerful thing I do for any organization is to ask questions. The advantage of having a reasonably intelligent, well-intentioned third party come in is that I get to ask stupid questions and my career is not limited because of it. In other words, I can sit across the table from an executive and ask what he thinks is a dumb question. “Why do we ship those to China?” Well, okay, roll your eyes, get disgusted- then answer my question. I can assure you that I am going to push back on some of the responses. Asking questions is how I find where things are. (more…)

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The Difference Between a Manager and a Leader… and More Importantly, Does Anyone Really Care?

Some people want to place managers and leaders in nicely wrapped boxes with great big bows, and yet others talk about how vast the differences are between leaders and managers. But the truth is, figuring out if there is a difference between “managers” and “leaders” is largely an academic exercise.  Even if there is a clear distinction that exists between leaders and managers, does it really matter?

A Distinction Between Managers and Leaders…If There Has to Be One

First of all, and for the sake of clarity, I agree with the idea that not all managers are effective leaders, but all effective leaders are at least competent managers. They have to be.  Confused yet? Generally speaking, effective managers get things done and effective leaders get people together to unite behind a specific, believable vision to get those things done. (more…)

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Leadership and Increasing Revenue…It’s All About the People

Walk into any modern bookstore, find the business section and look up on the shelves. It’s a pretty safe bet you’ll see more than a few books on leadership–charismatic, situational, you name it, it’s there. But when it comes to leadership for increasing revenue, there’s not much out there, and there should be. The key to effective leadership and ultimately success is based on making sure you have the right people surrounding you?

My focus on people isn’t to garner a “feel good” working environment, but to drive business success. I look to find how I can help organizations get to better places. I’m looking for real business achievement–increased revenue, retained earnings, ROI, these are the sorts of things I’m trying to help with. My argument is always that while there are several different ways to do it, the single most efficient way is through people. (more…)

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