ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum


Online Edition - October 2000

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Issue Highlight — In Praise of C-SPAN
- Peter Block explains how supporting and viewing more media like C-SPAN, free of interpretation and corporate meddling, could provide an answer to the commercialized, unintellectual broadcasting that captures most of our attention.

Views For A Change

 In This Issue...
Love 'Em and Lead 'Em
Getting The Moose On The Table
Is Zen Your Cup Of Tea?
A Mariner's Tale

 Features...
Peter Block Column
Views for a Change
Pageturners
Heard on the Street


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Consultant Q&A

John Runyan Responds:

The ideas of a very wise man guide me in approaching this problem. Dr. Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, a psychiatrist and scholar from Eastern Europe who lived through two world wars, studied the human experience in family and social contexts for more than 60 years. One set of his insights (explained in my own words) seems profound to me-all human beings need two crucial elements present in their lives in order to have a sense of health and well-being. These elements, perhaps even more important than Maslow's basic needs, are acknowledgement and justice.

  By acknowledgement, he means the explicit noticing and crediting of what each
human being is doing well and right that contributes to that person's family/community/organization. By justice, he means the internal experience and perception that each person has about being treated equitably and having access to formal and informal forums that are fair in their processes and outcomes. I understand Nagy to say that when people have acknowledgement and justice in their lives, they can flourish; when these elements are missing or diminished, they suffer and struggle. People who receive acknowledgement and experience justice are far more able to give acknowledgement and contribute to just outcomes than those who do not. Organizations and societies that foster acknowledgement and justice can thrive; those that don't wither away.

 With this perspective in mind, I believe that motivation-and-reward systems should be built on the premise that everyone needs some form of recognition for what they are actually contributing-be it large or small. If you insist on appropriate acknowledgement for everyone in your over-all formal and informal performance feedback systems, you are establishing a platform from which you can recognize and reward those who far exceed job expectations. You may have created an elite recognition system before you wove acknowledgement for everyone who really contributes into the fabric of your organization culture. The result is employees who are judgmental, resentful and not motivated by this specific system.

  Ask your employees and supervisors about their experience of being acknowledged; ask them for their suggestions about what forms of acknowledgement would be meaningful. Then insist that your leaders, managers, supervisors and staff act on their recommendations as you all carry out your day-to-day work and implement your performance feedback systems.

  If you want to recognize and reward those who far exceed expectations, you also need to make sure that the processes for nominations and selections are just. In this case, the sense of justice needs to be more in the perceptions, hearts and minds of employees, and less in the calculated judgements of managers or the formal design.
Put together a representative group of front-line staff, supervisors, mid-managers and executives. Have them ask employees what seems just and unjust about the current way of recognizing performance. This task force would collate and review this input, and then come up with the design for a more just approach.

  If you have moved to provide more broad-based and wide-spread ways of acknowledging employee contributions to workplace success, the data this task force gathers from employees will be meaningful and useful. From this information, a better plan for recognizing superior performance will emerge.


John Runyan is a Partner and Senior Consultant with The Leadership Group, LLC, in Seattle. An educator and consultant for 25 years, he now specializes in coaching leaders and helping to create "learning organizations." His e-mail address is JRMRV@AOL.com. John's colleagues, Elaine Sullivan, Leopoldo Seguel, Rhonda Gordon, Rene Pino and Catherine Johnson, help him to think carefully and write clearly in response to these questions.



David Farrell Responds
Question for Consultants

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