[New post from Tom Miller - President and founder of Symbolist. You can read more about him and where he'll be this year on our Leadership page.]
I went to a college track meet this past weekend to watch a couple of young friends compete. There were some big names there – Michael Johnson, Jeremy Wariner, Sanya Richards Ross…(if you’re not a sports fan, each of these guys holds down a hefty number of Google pages) I love watching great athletes perform – the focus, tension and beauty embedded in the competition gives me goose bumps.
A college meet like this one was small enough that I could see the expressions on an athlete’s face and even hear them as they ran by. Fully engaged, all their effort – focused on the finish line and performing to the best of their ability.
Often, there was a large spread between first place and last. Some athletes are world class and have exceptional ability, some athletes train just as hard and are just as dedicated – but they don’t have the DNA that others have. Not everyone got a trophy… but everyone did get applauded and appreciated for what they offered on the track.
Athletes know what it takes to get to the starting line and there’s great respect among athletes and knowing fans for ANY person that chooses to compete and does the work to be in the game.
Companies should be run this way (no pun intended)…
Know what your “athletes” need to get their work done. Be there to support and coach when needed, expect that you’ll see differing levels of ability and be the kind of place that recognizes the contributions of anyone who is on the line when the starter fires the pistol.
Reward the accomplishment AND recognize the effort. Don’t focus exclusively on the outcome. Make sure you look past the results and see the work and dedication the rest of the “field” has put into being in the game.
When employees are engaged they are “in the game.” And being in the game is risky. Being in the game takes courage. Being in the game takes focus. As a business – the more people you have “in the game” the better you will perform. Take time to thank ALL the players for that commitment. If you only reward the “winners” you will dampen the desire to get “in the game.” Encourage participation.
Places that operate this way have a much greater chance to watch fully engaged people compete in a healthy way to do their best work.