Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Give 'Em a Shot

There's a lot of favoritism in business. It's a common complaint about supervisors and managers. Tall, good-looking people get promoted more than short, ugly people. A poor student from a well-known school will be considered for hire before a straight-A student from an unknown school. We turn down candidates for hire who don't look the part. We give preferred terms to "good" customers, in whatever way we define "good".  (One business guru questioned why we give preference to the largest customer when they often are the worst at paying on time and fully.) We assign choice projects to people we "like" for one reason or another.  We grant bonuses based on positional status rather than contribution.

Bonuses are a controversy unto themselves in every organization. (To read an excerpt that presents an interesting perspective, see NCEO's new book by Corey Rosen. Skip towards the bottom to get the excerpt.) Let me briefly ask a few questions on this topic. The simple method, that is advocated in every survey, because people don't want to make tough decisions is to pay everyone the same amount in bonuses. However, if we base it on contribution to the level of success, how well do we know what people's contributions are? We don't have a scorecard like baseball that counts RBI's or defensive plays. Should the person who makes a thousand "little" actions towards profitability be given more or less than the person who makes one "big" decision? Can we figure out a way to count the net contribution--decreasing the successes by the errors?

When we get down to it, many of us would admit that our personal success is based on luck as much as skill, if not more so. People who are in tough times are often not at fault for those except that they accepted a job offer from a company that was going to go out of business in the future. However, based on a person's past "success" we look at them differently as a job candidate, as a potential for a job promotion, as the "white knight" to make a project work well or save a project... Unlike baseball teams, we don't have practices where we can determine who's going to be in the starting lineup. We're always in a game situation. We won't turn to the "bench" unless the starter has been "injured." Most people just need a shot at being in the game to prove they can create the results you're looking for.

Today, look for the person who's been on the bench. Give 'em a shot to prove they can do the extraordinary job. Be patient; they may not get it right the first time. I hear stories of a group of 12 that didn't get it right after 3 years of training but took the world by storm when they were put into the "game".

Maybe that "person" is actually a customer who needs a break to make it big--expanding your business along the way.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, James chides us not to play favorites. He calls it a sin to give preferential treatment to a person based on their status or how they look. It's a form of judgement that only gets us in trouble in God's eyes because we don't see people the way He can.

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