Rewarding Excellence Over Catering To The Weak Links

By: Eric Betts

In the world of leadership, the ability to guide a successful team hinges on motivating members towards collective achievement and individual excellence. Addressing disparities in performance is a quintessential responsibility for any leader. Yet, there is an often-traversed pitfall in leadership approaches—the tendency to impose a uniform set of restrictions catered to the less reliable members of the team, which inadvertently penalizes the most dependable and exceptional ones. Leaders across various sectors, be it in business, non-profit, or worshiping communities, are grappling with this dynamic.

The Counterproductive Nature Of Overregulation

Consider a common scenario in the workplace—members of the team taking unscheduled absences. A leader recognizes a pattern of absenteeism and responds with a stringent policy requiring doctor’s notes or other forms of substantiation. While seemingly a fix, the policy overlooks those with a stellar attendance record, burdening them with red tape when they face legitimate emergencies. Similarly, there are instances where excessive regulation stems from minor issues, such as employees returning from breaks just a minute late. Instituting a rigid monitoring system for such minor infractions indicates a lack of trust, which can diminish morale and stifle the sense of autonomy of high performers. Restricting resources due to their misuse is another example. When a few are guilty of squandering supplies or company time, instead of addressing these individuals, blanket restrictions ensue. This means that those who utilized resources responsibly now bear the consequences, impacting their productivity and creativity. Each of these examples illustrates the repercussions of enforcing broad-brush rules—the best members of the team inevitably face constraints, which can be demoralizing and hamper their performance and loyalty.

Celebrating Excellence And Fostering An Environment Of Trust

Leaders need to rethink their strategy and instead contemplate how they can uplift and empower their most responsible and excellent team members. This does not only involve recognition and rewards but also creates a culture where excellence becomes the norm.

Implementing specific, targeted interventions for those who struggle while framing policies that recognize and incentivize exceptional performance is the best practice. For example, introducing a rewards program that acknowledges perfect attendance, or stellar performance encourages others to strive for similar recognition without unnecessary constraints.

Creating room for professional development and growth for high achievers, offering challenging projects, autonomy in decision-making, and opportunities to influence team dynamics, all contribute to an environment that naturally attracts and retains talent.

Beyond Business – A Universal Approach

This philosophy extends beyond the corporate sphere—nonprofits benefit from an enthusiastic, mission-driven staff that reach new innovative heights when they feel valued and supported. Worship communities thrive when active, dedicated members are encouraged and given opportunities to lead,

rather than being bogged down by rules that cater to the lowest common denominator. Notice the following methodology.

3 Ways To Shift Towards Excellence

Adopt a targeted approach: Rather than instituting broad and restrictive rules, deal directly with the individuals who need guidance, allowing freedom and flexibility for those who consistently excel.

Incentivize high performance: Create reward systems and opportunities that recognize individuals who go above and beyond, which can stimulate others to improve.

Provide growth opportunities: Offer advancement paths and developmental options for top achievers, aiding their growth and setting a benchmark within the team.

In conclusion, while it is necessary to have rules in place that maintain certainty and order within an organization, it is imperative that leaders strike a balance. This balance is weighted in favor of rewarding excellence and diligence, rather than stifling it under regulations that target the lowest-performing members. Ultimately, this approach can lead to a virtuous cycle where excellence begets excellence, attracting and developing a team of high performers who are not only the backbone of the organization but also it’s future leaders.

By: Eric Betts

Assistant Professor | Course Developer, Hampton University School of Religion