Value, Praise, and Rewards: DeMarco Banter


We spend a good bit of time in the office sorting through records. Records of accomplishment… sometimes these are HUGE accomplishments…sometimes they are life and death type accomplishments–and sometimes NOT. Sometimes we suffer from the “everybody gets a trophy” syndrome. How in the world did we get here?

I am not an expert, but can we agree that perhaps this started in our schools? Educators in the U.S. have been seeking ways to improve students test scores (sometimes I wonder if this was to benefit the student or the teacher). I believe the rhetoric goes something like this… the best way to improve a student’s ability is to PUFF up their self-esteem because high achievers have high self-esteem. Perhaps we can see the logic there….although I am sure those of us less educated types could poke holes in that argument… like maybe we are putting the cart before the horse?

Researchers have found that simply building a student’s ego breeds many negative traits: indifference to excellence, inability to overcome adversity, and aggressiveness toward people who criticize them.

So…what if we simply place high value on praising people? Of course we have to base our praise on truth. John Maxwell says he uses the approach below to encourage and lead others.

VALUE people
PRAISE effort
REWARD performance

We can even use the above with ourselves…and no matter where we fail or how many mistakes we make…we don’t let that devalue our worth as people. …there is a saying out there… “God uses people who fail….because there aren’t any other kind…

5 Replies to “Value, Praise, and Rewards: DeMarco Banter”

  1. Yeah but the rhetoric of “what if I’m the commander who rates honestly and the others don’t….then I’ve done a disservice to my troops.” Is going to be hard to break…..
    Think my last OPR read invented hydrogen and oxygen so water could be formed for the less capable to walk upon:)

  2. I always like the experiment of asking all the people in a room to raise their hand if they think that they are “above average” or “better than average”. Inevitably, more that 50% will raise their hand. Ask a room full of MBA students, and almost everyone will raise their hand.

    In the corporate world, many companies have instituted “calibration” meetings where supervisors and managers across a business unit come together to balance out all the glowing performance reviews written about their people. During these discussions, in some cases, an individual’s rating may move down a point, and, in other instances, increased. At the end of the exercise, there should be an almost normal distribution of ratings and everyone agrees the picture across the group is relatively fair. It isn’t perfect, but it is an improvement over a broken system where everyone shines like a star and nobody believes that it is fair or even valuable.

    Over a decade ago, the “best practice” from GE that many a company was trying to copy was including in this system, as a next step, the letting go of the bottom 10% of performers. The difficulty was that GE, at that time, was attracting and developing an overabundance of talented people, and they could afford to let “C” players go. Thanks to GE’s reputation, many of these people were offered salary increases to start at other companies. Times have changed, as has GE’s faultless image, and most companies have stepped back from pushing a measure that worked in the GE culture because it was driven by a domineering CEO, top-down. Instead of removing the whole bottom 10%, there is a focus on removing from the company those that are disengaged and destructive or struggling; training and coaching those that are disengaged but capable in the function; and moving to other, better fitting positions, those who are engaged but struggling.

    1. Jack Welsh’s book Winning was one that many of the “Masterminds” read… and agree with getting rid of the bottom 10%. Tough in the military, but over time we were able to get rid of the under-performers and we were able to raise the performance of others through that action. One thing we do not do well is to tell people they suck… and I use the term suck intentionally… it usually causes people to gasp or think I am overly harsh… but after you tell them they suck… you have to be VERY clear on how to get better. Big fan of the three strikes in this process as well. First time they don’t get it… it was probably my fault… I was not clear…(over time I have realized having others in the room helps in ensuring the message is clear)… the second fail is a more stern talk…ensuring the way ahead is clear…the third…it’s done… time to move on.

      1. Good point about calling a spade, a spade. Toughest part of the job when responsible for people, but those who do it, and then help their people grow, are the best. Those who avoid those difficult conversations have failed themselves, their people, and their organization.

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