My advice to leaders: Play favorites and get results!

In our quest as leaders to be respectful of legitimate differences our employees have, it appears that we have become a very careful, hesitant, and nearly comatose group. A great number of “leaders” have begun to pretend that all employees are created equal and are delivering equal results and value to the organization – when the reality is actually quite different. 

A number of leaders are colluding with their own employees – protecting them from the consequences of their own actions and mindsets. In the name of diversity, leaders are allowing employees to decide for themselves what mindsets they will adopt and what behaviors and actions the organization will compensate. What a rip-off!

Some leaders are even worse off as they are the victims of emotional blackmail, falling prey to the many invalid conditions and objections placed on them by their own teams, such as: 

•    “You haven’t brought this issue up before…”
•    “This is not the way it used to be…”
•    “This will probably change tomorrow, so until is it definite…”
•    “This is different than what we were held to before…”
•    “The expectations keep changing…”
•    “We tried this before and it didn’t work…”

These objections used by employees have worked well to keep their leaders from insisting on greatness, continuous improvement, adaptability and all the attributes that contribute to an employee’s success in today’s changing times. These “conditions” have induced some leaders into a type of coma where they depend solely on a few great employees who they don’t reward because they’re afraid that other employees will come to the realization that life’s not fair.

Too many leaders I work with have surrendered to the idea of mediocrity in order to never, ever offend anyone.

Reality-based leaders know that playing favorites is not only OK, it’s actually great for the workplace. 

So…wake up and start playing favorites! 

Employees need and deserve to know exactly how they need to think and what they need to do to create great results in your organization. Be clear. Diversity is great, but it has to do with the way in which they create top results, not whether or not they need to create top results consistently for the company. 
In my work as a leader, I have often heard employees exclaim to me, “You play favorites!” To which I have always replied, “Why, yes I do. Would you like to be one?” I then follow up with a listing of all of the competencies and behaviors that make some of my team members more beloved than others and the recipients of greater opportunities than others. Some of those competencies and behaviors are being personally accountable, results-driven, flexible, low drama, emotionally inexpensive, great with change, and supportive of the direction of the organization.

While it’s never wise to favor employees based on our own vanity (wanting them to be the same as us) or inadvertent lack of appreciation for diversity (judging style rather than measuring results), and it’s never OK – or legal – to favor employees based on race, life preferences, physical abilities, or religious affiliation, it is more than appropriate (and legal) to differentiate employees based on the core ingredients to ongoing success. It is vital that leaders get very clear with employees about the mindsets and actions that create results for the organization and success for the employee – not imagined, but proven over time and vetted out in the research to produce consistent results.

Want to be a leader who plays favorites? Get started today by following these important guidelines:

Get clear about the ingredients to success. Study both the research and current literature on success in business along with the best and most enjoyable employees in your organization and notice the commonalities in mindsets and actions. Insist that your employees work to adopt the same mindset and develop similar competencies. Then go the next courageous step and measure and reward your employees who step up with opportunity and compensation in direct proportion to the value they deliver – not their effort, hours clocked or daily tasks accomplished. 

Stop arguing with people, completely! You do not need to justify your expectations of proven habits of success. Meet the conditions of emotional blackmail with simple statements such as:

•    “Yes, you are right.” 
•    “Yes, you could be right.”
•    “I apologize for having misled you until now.”
•    “ I am now just realizing…”
•    “ I am sorry to have shortchanged you in the past, and now I want you to have as much information as possible so that you can be as successful as possible.”
•    “While that has been the case, here is what I would like for you to focus on now…”
•    “While we could focus on that, I would like to focus on that which will bring you even greater success and opportunity and that is…”

Redirect your employees.  After acknowledging that, yes, things are different, and, yes, the information has not been presented to them in this fashion before, direct employees to focus their effort on adopting mindsets that will lead to success and in developing competencies that will ensure that they can deliver great value today and well into the future. Over and over again. 

So, please, in the name of reality and for the sake of results, start playing favorites. Get clear about what it takes to become a favorite in your organization. Reward your favorites and before you know it, you will have a team of favorites with the bonus of great results.

And remember,
You rock and Cy rocks!

Lead on my friend.


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