“And The Winner Is …”

Trophy - MorguefileEarlier this week, Chip Bell shared some thoughts around the changing nature of leadership.   The whole post is well worth reading, but my attention was drawn to one comment about everyone on his granddaughter’s soccer team getting the same trophy, even though some (like his granddaughter) contributed much more to the team’s success than did others.

Here are my slightly edited comments:

I also have qualms about the “trophies for all” mentality that seems pervasive these days. Providing equal recognition to all when the contributions were not equal seems unfair and counterproductive, if the goals are to assure effective teamwork and build personal esteem.

However, I do think that everyone receiving a trophy can be a positive thing. After all, professional football players who win the Super Bowl ALL get rings, right?   A well-prepared team includes many people who do different things in support of a common goal.  Some efforts are different and more significant than others, but on a functioning team, everyone contributes something toward the end result.

For a deeper dive into the issue of awarding trophies for participation, visit this recent CNN debate.

The issue in this case may be more that individual performance is not always recognized, so those who work harder and give more do not feel their personal efforts recognized or adequately rewarded.

If you are on a children’s sports team, you may stop trying as hard to help the team win.

If you are in a corporation, you may also just fade into the desolation of doing “just enough” or simply walk out the door, never to return.  Much has been written about letting good employees leave, because they feel unappreciated.

Maybe a more effective approach would be to do both:

1) Recognize the team’s efforts, because nobody scores a touchdown completely on their own. It’s a team effort, as are most of our human accomplishments. Even Olympic athletes depend on many others for support of all kinds.

GIving everyone the same reward is easy and quick.  Recognizing how everyone’s efforts contribute toward the goal in specific detail takes more work and time, but probably yields much more positive response.

2) Recognize the individual contributions that stand out as beyond expectations or unusually effective. That quarterback who runs the ball in still has to get over the goal line without dropping the ball, even with half the people close to him doing whatever they can to stop that from happening.

From an ideal viewpoint, everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and of society.   In reality, everyone is not equal.  Setting aside social justice for the moment, the challenge for those of us in the workplace may be to lift everyone up based on their contributions, while still highlighting those who contribute at the highest level.

What do YOU think?

Should everyone be recognized equally for a team effort?

How will you motivate both the sloggers in the outfield and the star pitcher?

How workable is the idea of recognizing people unequally, when their contributions are unequal in today’s workplace?

Admiring ALL the trophies in my personal showcase in the Heartland ….


Image:  Morguefile.com