“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

It’s All Relative …

Yin and Yang metalAll definitions of words, like everything else, are relative.  Definition is to a major degree dependent upon your partisan position.  Your leader is always flexible, he has pride in the dignity of his cause, he is unflinching, sincere, an ingenious tactician fighting the good fight.  To the opposition he is unprincipled and will go whichever way the wind blows, his arrogance is masked by a fake humility, he is dogmatically stubborn, a hypocrite, unscrupulous and unethical, and he will do anything to win; he is leading the forces of evil.  To one side he is a demigod, to the other a demagogue.

Saul Alinsky,  Rules For Radicals:  A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals

This is a most erudite statement about our human tendency to see the same traits and interpret the same words or thoughts differently, dependent on who is exhibiting said behavior or words.

An idea from someone we admire sounds more palatable than when an enemy or someone from a group we dislike or fear voices that same idea. 


Too bad … this very human trait gets squarely in the way of our thinking critically and effectively about the message, because we focus our attention on our relationship to the messenger, and not on the value or merits of the message.

This is deadly at any time and doubly so now …. We need to step up our game at discerning valid and effective stances, and not allow our perception of the person who delivers the message to distract us. 


All this, of course, assumes basic trust in the messenger.  If we do not trust the messenger, we will not listen to them, but if we do, we might take all they say as true.   Trust can be our powerful way to decide who we listen to and a powerful block to hearing what we need to hear.   

Trust, by itself, is simply a feeling about someone or something else, and trust conveys no objective truth one way or the other.   Sometimes though, it’s all we have to go on …


Halo and Horns - Dreamstime.comI have no easy resolution to offer here.   The tendency to rate things based on our relationship with the messenger is as old as humanity and does not break easily.

It’s called the “Halo and Horns” effect.

One thing I do know:  Awareness is the beginning of positive change here, as it is in almost all change.  

If we first honestly and deeply consider our perception of a person and how that perception might influence us to hear them more negatively or more positively, we are on the way to more effective critical thinking.

Being free to simply agree with our heroes and ignore or rail against our enemies is no longer as easy as it once was …

Trying to sift through all the hoopla, platitudes, and innuendos swirling around important issues in the Heartland …


REFERENCE:  Halo and Horns Effect (Wikipedia)

INSPIRATION:  Quote originally shared by Steve Layman, who toils prolifically at Anderson Layman’s Blog.  Not only has Steve introduced me to a range of other worthy bloggers, his daily stream of fascinating and eclectic thoughts, images, and links brings continual mental exercise to my brain and joy to my heart. 



Image:  Morguefile.com

Trains, Boats, Planes, and Such …

Ship and Bus… and the real point isn’t even that he was in the wrong place..

It’s that the person was waiting for something big to come along, change his life, and make things all better.

Most of the time, life does not work that way …

Ships were once the safest and fastest way to move across very large bodies of water.  Countries developed large navies to vie for control of the seas and set up themselves as powers with which to be reckoned.  Some ships were built with the idea that they were “unsinkable” … and we all know how that story turned out.

Then along came the airplane … and all the ships and buses began to seem quite quaint.

I would rather you walk down a road … Move under your own power, with you in control of the direction and speed, choosing where and when to go.

… or you could just wait for the next space shuttle to pick you up and fly you to the Moon:)



Not talking about transportation or travel in the Heartland …


“I don’t believe their ‘study'” says Layman …

William Wallace window - Wikipedia… and I think I agree with him.

We are often awed by some few people who act quickly to intervene in dangerous situations, protect property and order, and even save lives.  We hail them as “Heroes” and honor them accordingly.

One wonders “How do they decide to act so quickly?”.  The short answer may be “They don’t …“.

” …the heroes overwhelming described their actions as fast and intuitive, and virtually never as carefully reasoned.”

(From The Trick to Acting Heroically)

Steve Layman has thought about this and comes to this conclusion:  “I don’t believe their “study”, where in a few short sentences, he outlines several incongruities in our usual acceptance of heroic behaviors.  Continue reading

Some “Thinking” About “Ing” …

Christopher Morley - PD - 12 31 1931 Library of Congress“There are three ingredients in the good life:  Learning, earning, and yearning.”

Christopher Morley

Morley also spent a fair amount of time during his life doing one other very good thing:  “Thinking”.

As leaders, we often spend a significant amount of time doing things.  Our “ …ings” can drive our behavior, our attitudes, and our relationships, while eating up the largest part of our energy and ability.  

We owe it to ourselves and those we lead to spend some time contemplating what we are “doing”. Continue reading