Participation Trophies Don’t Work

Leading Millennial Change: Weekly Tip

Consistent accountability provides a much better platform to leap from than a pile of participation trophies.

Participation Trophies Don’t Work

The phrase participation trophies has almost become a cringe worthy phrase.  The idea that the accomplishments of this generation are lessened by the fact that “everyone” gets rewarded for just trying something, is highly insulting.  That being said, I hear it all the time.  Leaders get together at conferences, or in meetings, or at bars and lament the idea that everyone seems to want a pat on the back for the smallest accomplishment.

On the other side of the coin, new leaders and employees in the workforce are at their wits end because leaders are inconsistent in their application of policy, and recognition of the team.  They see their leaders shy away from confrontation, and instead see them simply let mediocrity be rewarded.  We may not call them participation trophies in the workplace, but maybe we should.

Imagine if your leaders played by the same rules with everyone.  I’m not talking about threatening the 20/70/10 differentiation platform that Jack Welch has preached for all of these years.  Rather, I am suggesting that poor performance is met with consequences, mediocre performance is met with resistance, and exemplary performance is rewarded.  In essence, following the 20/70/10 principle, but doing it in a consistent manner that provides solid ground for the team to walk on.  If the top 20% knew they would be rewarded for a job well done, people would strive to be there.  If the middle 70% knew that they needed to give more, they would.  If the bottom 10% knew that failure with lack of growth is met with consequences, then they would push themselves harder or push themselves out.

Leaders have built an environment where mediocrity is rewarded by lack of consequences.  We give participation trophies every day, and then condemn a whole generation for wanting to be recognized for every accomplishment.  The establishment of standards of recognition, combined with consistent accountability will provide a stable environment where new and emerging leaders can thrive.  Provide solid ground for them to stand on, and they will launch your business.

Thank You,

Chris Cano

Principal

JLH Leadership Solutions 

To learn more read: Leading Millennial Change: Your Guide to Connecting Generations in the Workplace

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