Member of the Week and Recognition


Last night I had a discussion with a woman at the gym I go to. I have been declared "Member of The Week" and she congratulated me. I replied with a laugh as I am cynical about this "Award". I have no idea how this is selected so I consider it rather random behavior by the gym. They are working a small Public Relations activity to get folks to be happy about their membership.

Anyway, this lady was unhappy with my response. She was right that I should have treated her better. But my complaint was not with her, but with the gym. It was wrong of me to reply to her with my unhappiness with their behavior. So, what was my problem with them? I am being recognized for nothing in particular. Like getting a trophy for showing up and paying my monthly dues. That seems wrong to me and I want to put this in a business context with employees.

First, an AFC anecdote. In this post, I talked about the CLEC Era. Our largest customer in those days was Winstar and I have related that I visited them every week as the acting Account Director. We were in the middle of a product release when they demanded we build a card specifically for their needs. It was a card we called the DS3i and was added to an ongoing release. Rich Waldschmidt was the Release Lead and built a plan with the Engineering Team (Doug Asker, Laura Bascome and Leo Shvarzberg) on the DS3i. Given the late start, the plan made the DS3i the last thing to happen in the release. He marked this "Red" as it was in danger of slipping the release. As the Release progressed, the DS3i stayed on its plan and the rest of the Release slipped. The DS3i went from the last thing planned to finish to the first thing actually finished. The Release Team had been allocated Stock Options for finishing on time. Since the Release slipped, the Options were not granted.

I argued that the DS3i team should have received their awards. They did exactly what they said they were going to do and their tasks were completed on schedule. I thought we ought to hold this team up as exemplary of what we wanted. This was denied and I still believe that they should have received their options. I wanted to recognize them for what they had done right.

One more part of this topic is annual employee reviews. I worked closely with an HR person - lets call her Catbert - and she put in place a system that allowed the reviewer to pick off the shelf text to put into the review. I know why HR people do these things. They struggle to get Managers to complete reviews. I NEVER use those kind of systems. I always write my own review text and delete any automated text that a system generates for me. Why? Because I believe that my employees deserve to have my time put into this effort. This is never the only place where I want to discuss performance but it is a guaranteed place for performance, expectations, and plans can be discussed. I believe that if you don't want to have those conversations then you fail in leadership. If you believe that there is something more important than your people then that is a failure in leadership.

So, why do I write this? Recognize your employees. Recognize what they do when they do it. Take your time and actually talk to them. People are the reason that a business thrives.

So, I should have accepted the congratulations more gracefully. The gym should recognize members with accomplishments. Next week, I will start talking about the reasons that the Access Business collapsed inside Tellabs.


Jim Sackman 

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