Rule 15: Recognition I

The Absentee Leader Admonition:  Recognition & Incentives Should Not Be a Proxy For Leadership

One of the biggest misconceptions business and organization leaders worldwide have regarding performance incentive/ recognition/ merit plans is summed up in statements too frequently heard: “if we implement this performance incentive plan it will (choose one or more): manage itself, solve most of our problems, achieve most of our goals, bring us success (so, we can relax with things on ‘auto pilot’)”. 

The reality is it doesn’t work out that way.  In fact, it is a guaranteed disaster; it is just a matter of ‘when’.  Under-managed and un-managed incentive/recognition/merit plans are one of the most notorious proving grounds for the “law of unintended consequences”.  Many of history’s most notable and legendary business and organization catastrophes have had their roots in under-management.

In business at large, there have been more organizational failures as a consequence of absentee leadership and senior management than virtually all other factors.  Absentee management of performance recognition and incentive plans will create havoc in business process execution, and often cause irreparable harm to workforce commitment, motivation and morale.  Absentee management will cause the most brilliantly-conceived performance management plan to fail.

The reason is that performance incentive/recognition plans are highly explicit and overt statements by leadership of the enterprise as to its Priorities

Since market conditions and resulting Priorities evolve over time, and deviate further from their initial conception as time passes and changes accumulate, an under-managed, non-evolving incentive/recognition/merit plan will inflict severe damage to the workforce, resources, and social fabric of the enterprise; not to mention the consequences to customers and stakeholders.

To ensure ongoing performance plan relevance and effectiveness, and to insulate against their potentially destructive organizational disruption, leaders and managers responsible for design and implementation of these programs need to formalize the ongoing plan review, adaptation and enhancement process. 

It is essential: while your feet are on the pedals, keep your eyes on the road ahead, and your hands firmly on the steering wheel.

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>>> Rule 16