Reward the people you can count on

Put systems in place to recognize those who get things done

(Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from business performance improvement expert Larry Valant's book, "Stop Breaking These Rules! 100 Hard-Hitting Truths for Business Integrity and Performance".)

Get all the swords on the table.

Many years ago, a friend used a line in describing someone he admired by saying, "with him, all your wounds are in your chest." Being someone who deals honestly face to face and not behind someone's back is a good thing. An even better policy is leaving your sword at home, or at least placing it on the table when you meet with someone. It's difficult to inflict wounds when your weapons have been set aside.

Avoiding any kind of fighting or combat is a desirable behavior. Interaction with other people always provides the opportunity for disagreement, or at least differing points of view. When it is safe to disagree or have a differing point of view, discussions lead to learning and often to higher quality decisions and solutions.

Picturing your sword on the table will make you aware of the fact that you can constructively disagree rather than destructively resolve differences. Coming into your meetings unarmed, at least mentally, makes you aware that you can work together to arrive at quality decisions without leaving a trail of damaged relationships and unresolved issues – a very good thing.

Praise and recognition must be based on meeting commitments on time and on budget.

Hundreds of catalogs and websites are devoted to helping companies recognize their employees. They offer 10-year pins, retirement watches and you-didn't-take-a- single-sick-day desk clock. There are a multitude of wall plaques that can be etched to denote a perfect safety or attendance record.

Companies should skip the catalogs and put systems in place that recognize those who meet their commitments on time and on budget.

One of the greatest differentiators in people is the reality of who gets things done – on time, no muss, no fuss. Those who get things done as expected and promised all fall into one group; those who don't fall into another, far less attractive group. There are two types of people in the world above and beyond the lifters and the leaners. They are those who must make excuses and those who refuse to make excuses.

If you are at all as I am, you want people on your team on whom you can count – and you count on them because they are reliable. You trust their word and their commitments. Conversely, guess who I avoid like the plague? Of course, those who don't deliver reliably – but of course, there is always a good excuse! (Now that would be an interesting award – "Best Excuse")

Admonition and correction take place one-on-one, privately, and only after very careful thought.

When I admonish or seek to correct someone, I must be sure of my facts and establish my objectives, and the end results I want from having such conversations. I never get to admonish or correct when I am angry or wanting to get even. The only results from selfishly motivated conversations are damaged relationships and potentially deep hurt to those on the receiving end.

Yet, when prepared thoughtfully and delivered with kindness (albeit sometimes firm kindness, ahem….) then admonition and correction can have great value. And if appropriately delivered, can be the basis for important change.

Accordingly, write out the objectives of any conversation that is meant to be corrective. Ask yourself, "How would I want to be told if someone had this message to deliver to me?"

My Resentment Gauge must always read zero.

"I don't get mad, I get even"! Every time I hear these words, I think to myself what a record-keeping nightmare that must be. Many people spend lots of time and waste lots of energy keeping score.

I wish I could say I had never wronged anyone, but I know better. And, I do recall on more than one occasion when I might have been wronged. Fortunately, I get to make choices everyday to not intentionally hurt anyone and to not hold resentments over wrongs real or imagined.

If my Resentment Gauge always reads zero, I am probably on pretty solid footing and there is a very good chance I will sleep well tonight. My Resentment Gauge only reads empty if I have wronged or hurt no one today (that includes while I'm driving) and I have not let any wrongs toward me register on my gauge. That's a choice I get to make. When I choose well, I tend to be at peace.

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