Intriguing question isn’t it? If you’re a leader you probably struggle with being fair. Some people earn the benefit of the doubt, some don’t. Some people you just click with, some you struggle to make any connection at all. Some look to you as a mentor, some will loathe you just because you’re their boss. And then, try as you might, you have your own issues and challenges going on. Your own struggles with your job and your boss and your personal life. Like every other human you have your good days and bad days, your moments of clear thinking and irrationality. Leadership is very, very difficult.
Fortunately, I can help. You see a catalog crossed my desk the other day and right on the inside cover there is a blurb that reads: Are you struggling to treat everyone fairly? Learn how lapel pins can make every individual feel acknowledged and special…
Um, yeah. Lapel pins. Every individual. All sorts of scenarios spring to mind:
- “I always thought my manager was a chauvinistic bigot who played favorites but then he gave me a lapel pin and I realized how much I’d misjudged him.”
- “I’ve been working long hours lately. Coming in early and going home late. My family barely recognizes me anymore. The worst of it was that no one at work seemed to care. Or even notice. But then my boss gave me a lapel pin and all that hard work was worth it.”
- “I used to be what HR folks call ‘actively disengaged’. I spent more time and effort figuring out how to avoid working that I would have if I’d actually worked. On my best days I was just going through the motions. Then I got a lapel pin. That was the day my life changed.”
That’s the dream, isn’t it? That all the challenges and burdens of leadership can be lifted just by buying some stuff out of a catalog. It’s not that easy though, is it? The issues can’t be solved with a purchase order or a credit card.
I’m not dismissing the importance of rewards and recognition. I think it’s vitally important and visible symbols have a place it all of it, but they aren’t the whole thing. The symbols are a means – a tool – but not an end. Trophies and trinkets can be a link in the process and a piece of the overall program, but cannot stand alone or replace sincere conversation.
Recognition will never be once size fits all and leadership doesn’t come from a catalog.