Trophies are for achievement, not participation!

There is a reason we have traditionally awarded trophies for achievement, but not for participation.

As with anything of this sort, a trophy is an award, a form of recognition, a ‘reward’ for hard work, talent, perseverance, and accomplishment. Just showing up is not accomplishment.

If we reward students and workers for just showing up, we will just get people who show up. If awards are given for work and accomplishment, then we get those who accomplish.

Which society would we rather live in, one that just ‘shows up’ or one that accomplishes something?

Then, depending on your answer, set the rewards accordingly.

Credit:, public domain

Do Nothing (at your own risk)

Doing Nothing

Doing Nothing

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin wrote, “I didn’t do anything. That’s the first and best defense every toddler learns. If you don’t do anything, you don’t get in trouble.”

And, he is right. The only problem is that we sometimes never progress beyond toddler thinking. Scott Adams has made a very good living describing the dysfunctional workplace that perpetuates this kind of thinking in his comic strip, Dilbert. We who work in organizations recognize the foibles of the pointy haired boss, the evil Catbert, and the rest of the crew because it is far too common.

Of course, we imagine ourselves as Dilbert, the intrepid engineer who sees through all the gobbledygook, even if in reality we are the boss or HR director. We fancy ourselves as a clear thinker when noticing other’s faults but have a blind spot when it comes to our own.

Unfortunately, some organizations perpetuate the ‘do nothing’ mentality by creating a culture that penalizes something and rewards nothing. We are afraid to raise our hand in school because we don’t want to ask that one silly question, so we fake it and muddle through the best we can. However, at work, we are afraid to raise our hand because the boss will shoot down our suggestion, marginalize us if we come up with a bad idea, or may fire us if we make a mistake. Only problem is, we can’t fake it at work.

So, we protect ourselves by not raising our hand, not offering a suggestion, not taking a risk.

However, with no risk there is no reward. We are not rewarded with a raise, a promotion, or even a nod, for doing nothing. But, we think that is the way to success.

But, survival is not success. Success is success. And, to have success we must do something. So, what do you want to do? Are you taking action? Are you being successful? Success is a journey, not a destination, so keep at it.

And, if you are in an organization that penalizes risk, you may need to find your success elsewhere. If you are the pointy haired boss, you are holding your organization, and yourself, back by penalizing innovators. Your success will depend on the success of others. So, free them to do the work they are intended to do. Thriving is better than just surviving.

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Visionary of Awsomeness!

successful man athlete

Not a Real Consultant

Have you ever noticed that when coaches, life leaders, gurus, and other flotsam and jetsam promote themselves, their title generator seems to go into overdrive?

Every once in a while I will take a look on LinkedIn to see what topics are trending. I’m interested in topics such as leadership, marketing, public relations, etc., so my article feed usually includes posts from various individuals promoting their awesome potential to me, a pretty much un-awesome person.

Typically, there is a handsome headshot, smiling with perfect teeth, and they usually appear as though they are ready to break into a success-inspired laugh at any moment. If I just knew what they know, I would be brimming with excitement and be about to burst at the seams too.

Their tag lines (i.e. supposed job title) are something like this: Visionary Thought Leader, Change Agent, Success Consultant, Life Leader, Energetic Something-or-Other, and various other gobbledygook pseudo descriptors.

Translation: they don’t have a day job. Their job is to teach you how to be like them. It is to teach you to teach others to teach them to teach others to be a teacher of people like them.

Whatever happened to just plain ol’ consultants? Old fashioned, rock-ribbed consultants? The beautiful people are creating an industry to create more beautiful people. It’s window dressing. If I need advice it is generally on how to do something I don’t already know how to do. Ok, truth be told, I don’t know how to be a beautiful person, but that’s not my main concern.

I’m concerned with adding value, creating something, doing something better, or adding a little bit to humanity. Sometimes that looks like work. So, wannabe consultant, teach me how to do something. Show me how to improve my web site’s SEO, how to do a split test with my latest email campaign, how to paint, or draw, or wrap presents better. Something, just teach me something! That would be truly beautiful!

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Can you make someone care (or should you even try)?

appreciate care duality

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One of the frustrating things about management is that we cannot get people to care as much as we care. Try as we may, we cannot instill the same level of commitment and determination we have into others. But, it’s not for lack of trying.

One of the most effective ways of accomplishing a task is to codify it – break it down into sequential steps and develop a procedure in order to accomplish it. Monkey see, monkey do. It is terribly effective in reproducing results, and that is the attraction and appeal of extending this method to everything.

It seems to just makes sense. If I can codify how to weld two pieces of metal together, I can practice and learn how to do this task very well. I can repeat it seemingly forever and can be very successful in replicating this defined result. In many situations, this is success – achieving a well-defined result using a well-defined procedure.

The temptation is to codify caring. We believe we can make people care by making them replicate our actions. An early attempt to understand this phenomenon was the use of Trait Theory. In trait theory we study the personal traits of a person with the hopes of replicating their results. It is very precise, very scientific; square pegs fit into square holes and we congratulate ourselves on being carbon copies of our heroes.

However, history and experience have taught us that everyone is an original; no true carbon copies of people exist. Try as we may, we cannot replicate or imitate everything in someone’s life because so much of life is secret; it is out of view and intensely personal. Even if I move to Omaha and drink Cherry Coke, it doesn’t mean I will have the investing acumen of Warren Buffet. I can require that someone tell me that they love me but that doesn’t mean they will love me. I can mandate that someone respect me but they will not. Love and respect cannot be codified because they are necessarily secret, out of view and intensely personal.

This reminds me of wanting to make someone care. Managers specialize in accomplishing tasks and replicating results – and appropriately so. However, caring is like love and respect in that we cannot mandate them because we cannot codify them. Even though I can say all the right things and do all the right things, it doesn’t make someone love or respect me. And, even though I can mandate actions consistent with caring it will not guarantee that someone, in fact, cares.

Why does someone love or respect someone else? I believe it is because the person that is loved or respected touches someone on a deeper level and allows the other person to express themselves. The person we love allows us to express ourselves according to our needs. You will never love in a way you do not understand; it is secret and intensely personal.

So, why do we care? We care because caring is an expression of who we are. Caring is an expression of our inner self and it satisfies our need to do something meaningful. We do what we care about, not what someone else cares about. Caring, like love and respect, can never be commanded because it can only be given.

Greg L. Lowhorn

How to End Service Myopia

Banquet Table

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I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin in which he wrote about banquet tables. Yes, banquet tables. According to Seth, it seems that banquet tables are the epitome of efficiency, designed to hold ten guests with plenty of space for table service, food, and elbows. However, the inherent weakness is that banquet tables are not conversation friendly. If a guest talks to his neighbor on the right, his neighbor on the left is left out. If he wants to connect with the neighbor across from him, he must shout, destroying conversational intimacy, to say nothing of privacy and discretion.

The problem is this, banquet tables were designed by people who put on banquets, which is to say people who need to seat plenty of guests and serve plenty of food. But what about the guests? First, it is inconvenient to reach into the center of the table or ask others to “pass” things. Second, it’s horrible for conversation, and good conversation is one of the benefits of having dinner with friends. So, it seems that banquet tables are designed to accommodate the banquet servers, not those being served. There is something wrong-headed with that kind of thinking.

Usually, it is left to those in ministry to design and deliver the ministry, and that is the problem. When we only see what is close-up we get ministry myopia. If we are not careful, we develop the opinion that ministry is about those who serve, not those whom we serve. It’s a take-it-or-leave-it approach. After all, we are sacrificing and we are serving; suddenly, before we realize it, His ministry has become OUR ministry. God’s people become my people. God’s glory becomes my glory.

I am familiar with a new church plant that recently rented a building for their growing congregation. One of the first things the members did was add two nurseries. It would have been much simpler to have only had one nursery, but many children in the same room means more noise, more stress, and less personal attention for the children. At first, the nursery directors were working 9 out of 12 services a month and some volunteers were working 4 services a month. Over time, the directors asked more volunteers to serve and the load was reduced for each individual worker. Also, during that time dozens of volunteers worked painting the building, installing lighting, building walls, repairing plumbing, cleaning the facility, and doing countless thankless tasks, all without complaint.

When the time came, the church hosted its first community outreach and over 20 visitors came. The hard work was put in so that the building would facilitate worship, not hinder it. Yes, they could have made do with what they had, but it would not have been as effective in reaching the community they wanted to serve. That’s when the church members decided to forego their ministry and exalt God’s ministry. I think Jesus was pleased.

Read my related post about an organization that missed an opportunity to serve. Read it HERE.