The Leaders Notebook

Hard questions, ambiguity and opinion for leaders

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PonderThis: What Do You Reward?

July 22nd, 2011 · No Comments · Organizations at Their Best, PonderThis

What does the way a leader rewards employees say about the organization?  Rewards are powerful, no matter what behavior we are rewarding- or why!  Have a look at the two video’s this week from major league baseball games.

First have a look at this kid who managed to get rewarded for sulking, anger and selfishness.  He is just a kid being a kid.  It is not surprising to see this kind of response.  But instead of this being an opportunity to learn about how to deal with unhappiness and disappointment, adults watching from a distance need to rescue him from his own feelings, teaching a very different lesson.

Now, click this link to see what happens to a fan at a recent Brewers/ Diamondbacks game  You will have to scroll down the page to see the video.

Three things caught my eye as instructive here:

We reinforce behavior with rewards. A reward for poor behavior is equally as powerful as a reward recognizing positive behavior (and sometimes more so).  What do we reinforce in an organization when poor performance is rewarded.  Usually it happens in an attempt to encourage or relieve a boss from the need to have a more challenging conversation.  Sometimes, it is a wink wink decision by a board to reward a CEO whose results were dismal as a way of avoiding the need to deal with publicity or a lawsuit.   Either way, someone has learned that poor behavior, bad attitude or emotional bribery work.

Ironically, doing the right things can evoke cynicism. If you watch the second video carefully, you will see that like most people near a foul ball at a ball park, the kid is caught up n the enthusiastic scrabble for the ball.  As he celebrates his victory, it is an usher who points out to him that the ball was being tossed to another kid in the stands.  Comments below the clip are full of people who want to minimize or denigrate the kid’s behavior since someone else pointed out the right thing to do.  But notice the kid’s reaction.  No argument, no tantrum, no rebellion or sulking.  He just went with no struggle or reservation and presented the ball to the other kid.

Note the role of cell phones in both clips.  In each case, some friend or family member has called to report that whatever is happening is getting TV coverage.  You can see some subtle changes in behavior, especially in the first video, based on the awareness of being watched by friends or family.

So- what do you reward at your company?

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Happy Summer!

I will be taking a break from blogging through the end of August as I take holiday and some “light duty ” time with family.  Look for regular PnderThis entries here again starting in September.   what about you?  Are you taking a break this summer?

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