Values and Rewards – Friend or Foe?

Values are great and when applying them it would make sense to articulate it to your team by describing what that value looks like in action.  

For example:


A great and necessary value to have and comes easily to most – it’s a bit of a given. And yet honesty means different things to different people. Some people’s honesty may be too much for others. They may be viewed as over critical or judgmental.  People can also use honesty to hide behind, “well, I was just being honest, I didn’t want to lie about what I thought about the report”.  

Greater significance would be to ask:

What do you do when you make a mistake?  Do you take responsibility and make changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again?  How do you react when others make mistakes?

Honesty is also surrounded by other values such as Trust and Respect. Which supports the need for further clarification on the behaviours you, as a leader, wish to encourage in your team. 


Do to what exactly?  Count the money at the end of the day, check the stock or follow a process correctly.  

Or would it be more valuable to ask:

Can people come to you for help and you don’t tell everyone about it?  Do you say you’ll do one thing and then do the opposite?  Can you work autonomously?


How might that look? Do you offer feedback, even when it has not been requested?  When people do ask for your feedback, do you check what type of feedback they are seeking? Do you give the time to explain how you came to your conclusions?

Awards and rewards

Recognition for good behaviour can be demeaning and irrelevant – you are not a 5 year old. It is a finite-minded process because there are winners and losers over a given timeframe and this common practice can become unhealthy within a community.

Dan Pink did a fascinating video about Drive using carrots and sticks.

I agree, there is some validity in having a worthy rival and healthy competition.  But… focus that energy outside of your team.  

Look to your true competitors, not your accomplices.  

By encouraging the comparison of people’s behaviour, it can create an unsafe environment.  Sure, when someone acts outside of the law and company standards – that needs addressing.  

But, is it wise to use the rest of the time to pit people against each other, especially in all the good ways they show up?

If you have built a team effectively, the values take care of themselves.  You will naturally attract the “people like us that do things like this”.

Maybe we should start considering values as skills.

The Real Skills, the human skills that can’t be easily measured, monetised or automated. And we should celebrate how people translate those skills into what they do consistently every day.

What have your customers achieved because of your people? 

And if you are having to pick out the honest, trustworthy and respectful people, you may have bigger issues.

If you want to learn more about company values and rewards, they has been discussed at length by Simon Sinek in any of his 3 books, Marcus Buckingham in the 9 Lies About Work and Kristen Hadeed in Permission to Screw Up, describing how she founded Student Maid. 

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