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Building Future Leaders May 7, 2009

Filed under: Leadership — Carla Bobka @ 3:33 pm

Effective reward systems do more than pass out trinkets and cash.  Well planned and thoughtfully executed reward programs build leaders for tomorrow and align your team’s activity with enterprise strategy.

Joel, a friend of mine, recognizes superior performance by awarding cafeteria gift certificates during team meetings.  Each time there are two awards:  He presents the first, and the recipient must award the second.  He has found it an effective way to engage his team.  I think he is doing more than he realizes.  Let’s take a look at the invisible interactions supporting leadership development.

Joel acknowledges, and therefore holds up as an example, what he considers exceptional performance.  It becomes a benchmark for the team to look to.

The recipient must accept the award in person, on the spot.  Most of us have little experience doing this simple act.  Many people are uncomfortable in that moment.  Current reward and bonus systems are private, almost clandestine.  Your bonus check arrives in the mail, and you know it is coming.  Only you, HR and the Finance department know how much it is.  You do not stand in front of others, spontaneously and graciously accepting it.  Joel’s format provides his team members a platform to practice gracious, and hopefully, humble acceptance in a group setting.  While it is may not be considered “public speaking,” it is a solid practice field for getting more comfortable in front of others.

While basking in the thrill of accomplishment, the recipient then needs to single out another team member for his or her contribution, bestowing the second award on them.  If it were you, would you be scrambling to come up with someone or did you arrive at the meeting prepared to point out another’s efforts.  If you prepared in advance, you likely thought through more than one person’s efforts.  That activity solidified a sense of teamwork, and forced even the most arrogant member to acknowledge their success was on the shoulders of others.

Additionally, the second award gives your team experience in expressing praise to others.  Most of us do not do that frequently within a business setting.  Many people don’t even do it to their children or spouse.  Because of the infrequency of the action, when we do it, we usually fail to language the accomplishment as effectively as we would like.  Again, Joel’s format provides a tremendous platform for experience.

Lastly, take the time to discuss the accomplishments in relation to company strategy.  Talk about how they moved the company’s strategy forward.  It will not be obvious to everyone how the action relates to strategy.  By talking through it together, you allow the team to language the strategy in their own words and see how their daily work contributes to the larger enterprise.  Subliminally you are also keeping the corporate strategy in front of them.

Great leaders do a lot in a little space:

  • Develop other leaders
  • Provide a platform to practice leadership skills
  • Build teams who support each other
  • Acknowledge other’s contributions
  • Speak graciously about others to others
  • Are humble in the spotlight
  • Shine the spotlight on others
  • Keep strategy in front of their team
  • Shape behavior based on corporate direction

Joel’s simple cafeteria gift card reward accomplishes all of it.


2 Responses to “Building Future Leaders”

  1. Stephen Says:

    Often I observe managers confuse rewards and promotions.

    Rewards are based upon performance.

    Promotions are based upon potential.

    Nice writeup, Carla. Sorry I missed the call.

  2. Janice Raphael Says:

    Hi, I’m up at the Crystal Springs resort in Vernon NJ at the Mid Atlantic Area Mtg. I was just having my morning coffee and browsing e-mail and saw your update that apparently I missed during the first half of 2009 which I will be uncovering for months. This is fantastic stuff — things I know but very nicely packaged and highly marketable. I’m always energized to read anything about relationships and leadership. I’ts the air I breathe. This blog was like a little pocket inhaler. Thanks for the buzz.

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