Rewards for Doing Your Job–Why would I do that??

(repeated from 2013—because it reared its head again with a

But, Kevin, that’s his job!

An exasperated client exclaimed this to me after
hearing—again—that she should get better at recognizing her folks, and to
consider using regular accomplishments as the impetus, versus waiting for the
one-off spectacular event.

She disagreed strongly, obviously. She felt that if people
were just doing their job, they weren’t doing anything exceptional, ergo no
recognition warranted or expected. “Their paycheck is a reward for satisfactory
behavior,” she said. I’m sure no one reading this has ever uttered those words.

“Wrong,” I told her. “That’s just flat wrong.”

Since she is a football fan (assuming you actually consider
the Jacksonville Jaguars “football,”), I used a football analogy…

I started playing school football in 7th grade. Mine was a
small school, so most of us played both ways; I played right-side offensive
guard and defensive linebacker. This is Texas school football, so believe me,
they took it as serious then as they did through later years in high school.

In 8th grade our starting quarterback was a guy named Gordon Williams,
the son of our football coach (I’m sure that was just a coincidence). Gordon
and I were friends before football came along, as we lived about 5 houses apart
in a town of 4,500 people.

Anyway, we were playing La Grange, Texas (yes, the home of
the famed “Chicken Ranch”), and we were trailing by a good margin. Gordon
called a running play, handing the ball off to Albert Cubit (at the time, the
fastest human being I’d ever seen), who headed straight for my right leg. My
job was to pick up the middle linebacker who had been coming across unscathed
most of the game.

And pick him up I did. Nailed him in the chest, likely
surprising the daylights out of him, since I’d been something of a slug the
whole game until then. Ended up laying squarely on top of him, while Albert
pranced merrily into the end zone. Touchdown, Luling Eagles.

Now we were all happy, jumping up and down, slapping each
other’s helmets (this was well before chest bumps, butt-slaps and man-hugs), but Gordon cut
through the crowd and the noise to reach me, grabbed me by both shoulders and
said—yelled in my face, actually—”Great block! Great block!” I beamed, I’m
sure, like some stupid-looking 8th grader.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know I blocked, because I did. It
wasn’t that I didn’t know we scored, because of course I knew. It was because I
didn’t know how what I did actually affected the outcome.

You see, I was face down on top of that linebacker, and just
assumed that Albert had done whatever magic he did when he had the ball. I
didn’t realize that the team’s success at that moment was a direct result of my
efforts. And all I had done was what I was supposed to do. I didn’t block two
or three people, or chase down some errant interceptor. I simply blocked the
one person I was tasked to block for that play. Satisfactory performance.

And the team’s leader made me feel damned good about it.
It’s been over 40 years since that game; I don’t remember any other play, game,
or conversation. Heck, I have no idea of whether we won or lost to La Grange
that afternoon. What I do remember, like it was yesterday, was Gordon Williams
grabbing my shoulders, looking me in the eye, and saying “Great block!”

For just doing exactly what I was supposed to do.

“That which is rewarded is repeated.” It’s a basic tenet of
compensation, and the foundation in changing human behavior. Don’t delay or
save recognition in hopes of rewarding some heroic, superhuman event. Remember
that blocking and tackling—the business kind, not the football kind—is what
makes organizations and their leaders successful today. Show ‘em some love.

But that’s just me…

(…and thanks, Gordon)


Kevin Berchelmann

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