Reason #4 – They Focus On The Wrong Variables

Reward programs almost always focus on a single desired outcome, instead of the important processes that help accomplish that outcome.  In other words we try to develop a forest without any trees.

Let me put this another way, the analogy I’ll use stems from many years as a youth football coach.  Now coaching 9 and 10 year old football players can be a lot like herding cats.  They know they want to score touchdowns and win the game but they really don’t have any idea how to do it.

So how do we teach them to work together and reach their objectives?  The same way any football team does it.  We focus on teaching the fundamentals and drill repeatedly on basic formations.  Many of my players and even parents would get frustrated by how much time we spent working on drills and running endless repetitions of plays during practice.  As opposed to scrimmaging, or playing practice games.

The reason we did so was really quite simple.  Each player had to first know what they were supposed to be doing at any time on the field.  Fundamentals are key.  If we can’t block and tackle at a high level, then we aren’t going to score very much but we are going to give up a lot of touchdowns.  Likewise, without knowing plays like the back of their hand, it’s easy to be in the wrong place and then the strategy doesn’t work out at all.

Most of the complaining stops after our first game and the players and parents see the team working together to play well and being successful.  I would reinforce to them over and over again how each small fundamental contributed to the success they were seeing.  Or if our lack of skill in an area was hurting us during games.

Reward and recognition programs tend to focus only on scoring touchdowns and ignore the fundamentals like, communication, teamwork, training and other important tools to winning over time.  Instead, what do you think would happen if you gave more recognition to your people for working hard on the fundamentals?  Where would their performance go, and how would that affect the bottom line of your organization?

Thanks for joining us for Reason #4, in our list of twenty reasons why reward and recognition programs don’t work.  If you’d like to learn more about Leadership Tools and our training for front-line leaders, head to

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