Is Fair…Equal? DeMarco Banter

Is it a mistake to believe that leaders must treat all team members the same or equal?

whine-not-fair-cartoonLeaders are hired or promoted to win–not make everyone happy or give everyone equal time, equal money, or equal resources. Even though every team member must be given support and encouragement, to believe that all must receive the same treatment is not only unrealistic, it is destructive. Poor or even status quo performance should not be rewarded the same as outstanding contributions. If you were a superstar, what would you think when a “slacker” was receiving the same opportunities as you? Would you even continue to perform at your peak level?

Jack Welch talks about grades of excellence in his 2005 book Winning. Welch notes not all employees are created equal. Winning leaders appreciate the differences. A Leader’s failure to differentiate between stars, average performers, and laggards hurts performance. Accurate “differentiation” of talents- with recognition for outstanding people and units- transforms mediocre organizations into outstanding entities.

The superstars represent about 20% of any workforce, the middle tier 70%, and the laggards 10%. Celebrate the top tier with recognition and praise. Give middle-tier staffers motivation, feedback, and growth opportunities. This group represents the majority of team members, the biggest challenge, and the pool of future superstars. The bottom tier, plain and simple, needs to go. This may seem harsh, but a consistent, objective system serves everyone over time because it allows no hidden agendas or misunderstandings about job status or performance goals and sets clear expectations. So, is fair equal? Thoughts?

2 Replies to “Is Fair…Equal? DeMarco Banter”

  1. Fairness should start much, MUCH earlier to give all the resources individuals need to be able to compete when they arrive at the point of a job. Not just schools that have fair resources but lives with dignity that provide some of the same tools that privilege offers; some of those intangibles like confidence, dignity, contacts, good ol’ boys networks. An important resource would be experiences that prove that ALL individuals are rewarded for good and hard work not just some; experiences in which credit isn’t taken from those who did the work, had the idea, created or improved the process and given to those who have the privilege, position, inheritance, the right…something.

    When that happens, when everyone starts on a level playing field when it makes the most difference, then we will see more superstars from the middle tier and fewer people in the bottom tier. That is, unless the measure changes once more people reach the summit. Take fields of work that were paid at a certain level when they were male dominated and once they became female dominated fields the entire field suddenly became “worth less” as reflected by the pay.

    This is not to say that people don’t have different skills and abilities and may do better in one field over another. Nor is it to say that there aren’t people who don’t work hard, who aren’t driven or don’t take pride in their work. These differences would be spread relatively equally through all categories of people when all categories start out level, in my humble opinion. Skills, abilities, positive and negative traits, emotional and intellectual intelligence are in every race, gender, religion, etc. unless you look at your own narrow category through different lenses. What changes the balance is what is developed (or not) and to what extent for each category of people. Something else that makes a difference, what strengths, talents, tasks, accomplishments are appreciated and rewarded. Many times things that make a big difference in whether the whole project succeeds is something that is overlooked accomplished by someone who is under appreciated and goes unrewarded.

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