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The performance-values conundrum

3 min read


Leading others effectively is a balancing act. A leader is charged with getting work done through others while maintaining decorum and possibly even creating workplace inspiration at the same time!

In most organizations, the only metrics that are consistently measured, monitored and rewarded are performance numbers — projects completed on time, analysis and reports done, operating within budgeted parameters, profitability, etc. Leaders can easily get caught up in the “tidal wave” of an exclusive focus on results.

Results are certainly an important thing, but they’re not the only important thing. Workplace sanity and civility are equally important!

We know this is true because our best bosses made sure our work environment was a safe and respectful one. They inspired our performance while making us feel valued, trusted and honored. And, they ensured that we treated our colleagues with the same respect.

Despite these “best boss” experiences, many of our organizations today focus entirely on results. The conundrum is that rewarding results alone actually caps performance — it doesn’t improve it.

If all you measure, monitor and reward are results, us humans may be tempted to bend the rules. When rules are bent, unfairness is obvious.

Here’s an example. One client employed a salesperson who, at the end of every quarter, had strong sales that put him over his quota. He earned heavy commissions on revenues above his quota. Once his bonus was paid, 50% to 100% of those sales came back as returns.

It happened for years. It was unfair to the company, to his customers and to his colleagues. He was playing the game to his advantage. Everyone knew he did it. The unfairness caused many of his sales colleagues to “go through the motions.” Most barely met their quotas and some missed theirs.

The unfairness of this situation didn’t cause this man’s colleagues to quit and leave — they quit and stayed.

Compare that scenario to the culture that your best bosses built.

When our best bosses crafted a work environment that treated everyone with trust, respect and dignity, our commitment and engagement rose. Our performance went up. We didn’t have to play politics to get ideas considered or to make process improvements.

Our best bosses made systemic tweaks to encourage team citizenship. We had individual incentives but had team incentives, too. By cooperating and aligning to a meaningful purpose, we performed more efficiently. We did things right the first time. Customers were treated like valued partners.

The proof is undeniable. Where leaders ensure values are as important as performance, employee engagement goes up (40% or more), customer service goes up (40% or more), and results and profits improve (35% or more).

The conundrum is easily rectified. When everyone has clear performance expectations, clear values standards, and are held accountable for both, very beneficial things happen — every day.

What do you think? How did your best bosses ensure fair systems and cooperative teamwork? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

My latest book, “The Culture Engine,” helps leaders create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get a free sample chapter by subscribing to my weekly updates.

Podcast — Listen to this post now by clicking the podcast link at left. Subscribe via RSS or iTunes. The music heard on these podcasts is from one of my songs, “Heartfelt,” copyright © Chris Edmonds Music (ASCAP). I play all instruments on these recordings.

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