Tag Archive for motivation

In the Absence of Data, Results may be Null and Void

This is not a post about the use of data in human resources.  I’m not going to be talking about predictive analytics, big data or modeling.  Neither will I be covering metrics, measurements or statistics of any sort.

What’s on my mind is the absence of data.  What happens when we come face to face with seemingly invisible activities that lead to perfectly acceptable consequences and outcomes?  When we can’t ‘observe’ something – are we able to truly identify it?  Can we verify something – if we don’t even notice it?

Think of an effective manager whose team or department always flies under the radar screen – there are minimal problems that rise to the level of critical issues.  And isn’t that, quite often, the result of good management?  This invisible successful manager is doing what she should be doing by identifying potential issues before they arise – and then preventing them from even occurring.

And no one knows.

Manager Bob however (sitting down the hall) gets all the kudos because his team is deftly averting disaster left and right.  We applaud (and probably reward) Bob for his ability to manage in times of difficulty – tell us how he did it – and dazzle us with the numbers/stories/razzmatazz.


In organizations large and small there are people doing remarkable things day in and day out and getting the job done.  They’re just not continuously putting out fires , managing disasters or averting crises of epic proportions.

Joan the Accounting Manager and her team do their job and get the bills paid on time.  It’s what’s expected.  By taking care of business she’s also preventing, negative things from happening.  But how do we measure the “what ifs?” or the “what might have been?”   If bad things don’t happen because of Joan’s effective leadership well, we just don’t notice it, do we?   “Oh right…..Thanks Joan and carry on.”   Null and void.

It’s an absence of data.



A Recognition Epidemic: Pass it On

I think we can all agree that providing a heartfelt “thank you” to an employee and recognizing their efforts is a good thing.  It’s easy enough to do, cost-effective and one of the most important drivers of employee engagement around.

We, as managers, realize that some individuals like public recognition while others shirk from the limelight and would be more appreciative of a sideline conversation and acknowledgement in the privacy of their cubicle.

Either way, showing sincere appreciation and applauding an employee’s contributions is, as we used to say back in the day, way cool.


Recently, however, I heard a story on this topic that just made me sad.

A senior leader at an organization (who, incidentally, regularly shares kudos, gives thanks and applauds his staff members) gave a public shout out to a staff member several levels down on the org chart.  This employee was pleased – delighted – thrilled.  She floated on air for a number of days afterwards.

Until a co-worker opined that it was extremely offensive to other employees who have never received a public “thank you” from this senior leader.

Are you kidding me?

Naturally, the employee who had received the compliment felt deflated and defeated.  Feelings of guilt surfaced as she wondered if she had done something wrong by performing her job at such an exceptional level that it came to the attention of this senior leader.

And no, I am not kidding.


I don’t know about you but I want to be in a workplace culture where recognition is integral to how we operate.  Where the spirit, and intent, of recognition is to be joyful, affirming and meaningful.  Where recognition can sometimes be spontaneous and sometimes be strategically planned.  Where everyone collectively celebrates accomplishments and revels in sharing good news.

I certainly don’t want pandemonium – wild confusion, chaos and disorder. I certainly do want to be able to say “I appreciate you” without causing an epidemic outbreak that negatively mutates and kills good will.

A recognition culture can be contagious.

Let’s pass it on.


photo credit: Daniel Slaughter via photopin


The Power of Many. The Power of One.

Last week, in the manner that these things occur, there was a picture making the rounds on Facebook that poked fun (in an amusing way with just a dash of profanity) of the old cliché “there’s no ‘I’ in team.” 

Which reminded me how much I’ve always truly disliked that saying.


It goes without saying that assembling a group of individuals with unique talents that compliment each other can unleash all sorts of things – idea generation, innovation, a little-bit-of-friction (in a good way).  The collective group could quite possibly get more done in a shorter period of time and accomplish things that an individual could not achieve on their own.

But you know what I’ve always found to be the undeniable truth?

That team is made up of a bunch of ‘I’s – as in INDIVIDUALS.

And each of those individuals must make a purposeful and conscious decision to bring themselves into the group.  Each person must be committed, engaged and invested in moving the work of the team forward.

I daresay that if any one person belongs to a team and believes that the power of the group trumps their own INDIVIDUAL power, then that team is doomed. The team may not fail – but I may not hit its full collective potential if all the individual members check their ‘I’s at the door.

There’s a great deal of potential and ability in many.

There’s a LOTof capability and power in one.

Sorry: You are NOT the Most Valuable Employee

I recently received a resume from a job candidate who, in the section of his resume entitled Awards and Accomplishments, listed the following:

Recipient of the XYZ Company ‘Most Valuable Employee’ Award

for November 2010 & February 2011

Now good for him – he’s obviously pretty proud.  Accompanying the bragging rights was, no doubt, a paper certificate with his name hand-calligraphied by his manager’s wife and a 2-for-$20 gift card to the local Applebee’s (I feel free to make this snarky comment based on the industry in which he worked and the location of his employer).

I’m not trying to diminish something that apparently made Joe Applicant feel good.

But what of all his coworkers who were, in essence, told that they were NOT quite as valuable?   Doesn’t it stand to reason that if  Joe was the most valuable then everyone else was less valuable?  What of poor Mary who toiled next to Joe for 14 months – working side-by-side with him, pulling extra shifts, smiling and beaming the whole while?  Mary put up with the long hours, diatribes from management and bullshit from the customers the same as Joe.  And so did Carol and Mac and Ashley and Joshua…

But none of them were told they were valuable – let alone MOST VALUABLE.


I got me to googling, and I found organizations that bestow the following honors/awards:

  • Most Valued Person
  • Best Employee of the Week
  • Excellent Employee

Can you imagine the foolishness that must go in to choosing the Best Employee each WEEK?


Once upon a time I worked for an organization that had an Employee of the Month Program.  It was already in place and I inherited it when I walked in the door into my new position as head of HR.  While it was truly a dysfunctional and ineffective program there was no way that I, as the organizational newbie, was going to pull the plug as a first order of business.   Employees and managers nominated their peers and co-workers – there were forms, rules (“no one can win more than every other year!”) and endless meetings.  Months would arrive and there would be no nominations so the committee had to ‘choose’ someone in order to keep the program alive.  Utter and total crap.

Sweet, smiling, pleasant Mary – who the customers just ADORED! – was nominated every other month even though she usually left her tasks undone each day.  Serious, somber, gruff Katherine worked behind the scenes and accomplished more in a day than most everyone else – yet she never got the nod.  Nor did several hundred other hard-working, dedicated and caring employees.


I’m not a curmudgeon – really.  And I’m certainly not an advocate for ‘everyone needs a trophy.’

Employees want and need real and meaningful recognition for their accomplishments and they should know they’re valued and appreciated. But not at the expense of others feeling slighted and not based on the whim of a nominating committee or the need to pick someone/ANYONE for this week’s award.

Cuz that’s NOT valuable.



image courtesy of dreamstime