Rewarding Effort: Beyond Just Results

In a world that is often fixated on outcomes, where success is measured solely by the end product, the end results, are we inadvertently neglecting the value of effort and performance? 

I’m not suggesting that results aren’t vital for the success – they are – as a small business owner it doesn’t matter how much effort I put in, how strong of a performance I have, if I don’t produce results, and ultimately, make money so I can pay myself, then I wouldn’t be a small business owner for long.

Results matter, they always have, they always will, yet, the pervasive mindset that they’re the only thing that matters is a dangerous one that permeates through the realms of business and extends its reach into sports, education, and various other facets of society.

We need to shift our focus towards recognizing and rewarding performance, effort, and results in equal measure.

The Disparity in Recognition

This really came to light for me while watching my son in a recent hockey tournament. It’s been a great season, not because of our results, but because of our effort and performance. We’ve lost over 75% of our games, so making it to one of the finals of the last tournament of the year was an amazing achievement, and they were delighted.

Disappointingly, we lost heavily in the final, but it wasn’t for lack of effort or performance, and it was during the award ceremony were this lesson I’m writing about really jumped out at me.

Celebrating only the results

The winning team got all the accolades, all the glory. With both teams lined up on the ice, the winning team first went to receive their individual medals and shake the hands of the organisers. One by one, they all went up. Minutes past as our team watched and tried their best to look happy. Then this team all got awarded a t-shirt (a big deal to 10- and 11-year old’s). Finally, the team got handed the trophy and did the memorable trophy lap. For about 10 minutes our team, the team that lost the final (not the losing team – never use those words), had to stand there on the ice and observe this.  They’d given their all, improved vastly and finished the season on a winning streak, yet the lesson they were being taught was that none of that mattered – on this ice and in this game, we only reward results.

Listen. I want to reiterate that I believe strongly that results matter. I’m not suggesting we give participation medals, don’t get me started on that, but I do believe that we are teaching our kids the wrong lesson, whether it be in sport or in education. The lesson that we’ll reward only the results.

My son, learning how to lose well. The best lesson sports can teach us.

Sport: A Classroom for Life

I don’t put my kids in sports so they’ll be better athletes. I put them in sports so they’ll be better people. I care way more about what they learn about life as opposed to what they learn about the sport. 

This past season I’ve developed a niche role for myself as the team cheerleader, but an interesting fact that I’m not sure many realise is that I only really cheer when we’re losing, or in a solid tied battle. I don’t really cheer when we’re winning. Yes, I’ll applaud the team still, but I don’t get passionate about it. That’s because when we’re losing, I want the kids to understand that yes, we may be losing the game according to the scoreboard, but there’s still two critical components we can win: effort and performance. As I tell the kids #winyourshift, no matter the score. True champions are those who can lose the best.

Sports serve as a conduit for invaluable life lessons. So, when the focus remains solely on the outcome, we risk overshadowing the fundamental lessons of perseverance, resilience, and teamwork that sports inherently offer.

It’s imperative that we emphasize the journey, not just the destination, fostering a culture where effort and performance are celebrated alongside results.

Transcending Industries

Clearly, this fixation on outcomes isn’t exclusive to the realm of sports; it seeps into various industries, where success is often measured by numbers alone. While achieving targets is undoubtedly important, the means through which these results are attained should not be overlooked. Ethical conduct, perseverance, and integrity are all integral components of true success, deserving recognition and reward.

Bad leaders – and bad teams – can still get good results

I was almost pleading with my boss:

“He’s a bully. People are fearful of him, and he tries to control every part of every environment he can get his hands on. He’s the opposite of what we need our leaders to be like.”

“I hear what you’re saying, Phil, but he has so much knowledge and experience, always gets the results, and I rely on him so much. Sometimes you just need to accept the other things.” 

And with that, the conversation was over – and so was my time with that organization. I walked out of the office, got into my car, and drove home.

No, you needn’t – and you shouldn’t – just “accept the other things.”.

Results matter, but not more than they way we get those results.

The Fallacy of Solely Rewarding Results

The fallacy lies in the assumption that results alone are indicative of effort and performance. In reality, success is often multifaceted, influenced by numerous variables beyond mere outcomes. Consider the student who diligently toils to achieve commendable grades, despite not attaining the top spot. Their effort is no less commendable than that of the highest achiever and warrants recognition accordingly.

Redefining Success: A Call to Action

It’s time to redefine our notion of success and recalibrate our reward systems to reflect a more holistic understanding of achievement. Success should encompass not only the end result, but the journey undertaken to reach it. Whether in sports, business, or any other endeavor, let’s shift our focus towards acknowledging and celebrating effort, performance, and results in a more balanced way.

By broadening our definition of success and realigning our reward systems to encompass these essential elements, we can foster a culture that values the journey as much as the destination. Let’s strive to create a society where recognition is not reserved solely for the victors but extends to all who show up as good humans, exhibiting dedication, resilience, and unwavering effort along the way.

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