Observing chicken politics is hilarious, the jockeying for position, competing for advantage, secret liaisons, negotiated alliances, clandestine trysts, reminds me of Canberra, but I digress….
It is human nature to behave a bit like my chooks. We assess our relative importance by our position in the pecking order, and we attribute a whole set of characteristics to those around us based on our perception of THEIR position on whatever pecking order they happen to belong to. As a result we become obsessed with titles and artificial performance measures which cloud our assessment of our own worth, but also that of our team members and peers.
There is a place for assessment of the value of our own contributions and that of our peers based on intrinsic rather than comparative factors, or put another way, look at your own real performance not at that of those around you. Examine the true value added by team members, not the relative value compared to their colleagues.
Comparisons are a major problem in most businesses. Managers compare the relative performance of their team members, and attempt to reward the performance of those who they perceive to be performing better than their peers. Team members compare their performance to those around them and complain if they perceive they are making a greater effort than their colleagues.
We should think about these kind of comparisons as a road to mediocrity. What if the best performing team member, who you have just rewarded is not adequately carrying out his duties, but is merely performing less abominably than his team mates? What if your team mates are adequately doing all of the work assigned to them to the best of their ability, but you have just been given greater opportunity?
The road to mediocrity lies in how behaviour is adjusted as a consequence of these comparisons. If we reward performance that is the best of a bad bunch we send a signal that improvement is not required, and that current performance is adequate. If a team member perceives their effort to be greater than that of their colleagues, and they adjust their behaviour to the lower common denominator, the organisation similarly suffers.
What we as business owners and managers really need to focus on is providing an environment in which our team members can do the job they have been hired to do to the best of their ability. It is not the team members fault if we are expecting more of them than they have the skills knowledge and expertise to deliver. Similarly, if the team member chooses not to deliver what they are capable of, the manager is not responsible for the consequences.
Next time you feel the urge to complain about the performance of a colleague, or worse yet, threaten to adjust your behaviour because they get away with it, remember who is supplying the grain. Next time you reward a team member because they out-perform their peers, first make an assessment of how far above the floor of the chook pen they really are. I will leave you to imagine what is all over that floor.
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