Growing up, we all heard that we had to be fair to others. This meant not getting an extra cookie in the lunch line. Or maybe being fair meant that everyone got the same sized treat. Still, fair could also have meant we all had to take turns singing a silly song in class.
We were taught by making everyone have the same treats or the same amount of time on the ball field or taking turns was the fair thing to do.
Knowing what I know now, I have to say I disagree. Much like I disagreed back then.
This fair mindset often seeps into our leadership. After all, it’s been ingrained into our minds that this is true fairness.
Only once everyone has what everyone else has can the world be fair. The playing field is leveled at this point.
To that, I have to say hogwash.
Fair As We Know It
I’ve already described what we’ve been taught to be fair.
Being fair, as often is told, means everyone is rewarded the same. Fair means everyone gets the same (and same amount) of treats. Fair means everyone takes a turn.
Our teachers and our parents have created a world where people all get the same things. And, in turn, think that they’ve made things fair.
Fair Isn’t Fair
Lets look into this fairness a bit deeper. Lets strip the layers of fair away to see the real truth behind this fairness.
Is giving everyone the same treat really fair? What if Johnny doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies but that’s what is being passed out? It’s then not fair to little Johnny.
Is giving everyone the same play time fair to the person who dedicates himself to a sport to increase his skill? All the while people who couldn’t care less about baseball continues to get more playtime…
What we perceive as fair, in reality, turns out to be anything but fair in the end.
We wind up rewarding people with the wrong types of incentives. We hold back those who are dedicated to and practice their craft.
By being fair, we stop recognizing what makes individuals unique. We begin to push our ideas of fairness onto those around us.
The Beginning Steps To Truly Being Fair
I’m not an expert here but I’ve been in enough of these unfair situations to see a pattern arise. I’ve also seen leaders become effective in true fairness.
There are steps we can take to become fair, truly fair in our leadership.
Discover motivations: Everyone has specific things that will motivate them to do better work.
For some, this may be an extra day off. Others may see a bonus as the motivation to work hard. And still others may want the recognition of a job well done.
Seek to discover what motivates your team members to work hard. And then reward them in that way.
Honor dedication: Watch your team and see who’s truly dedicated to their work. They’re the ones who are making sure they’re doing the best job they can.
Take note of these people and let them know you appreciate what they’re doing. Not by what you think they deserve but by what motivates them (Point #1).
Also, be sure not to confuse dedication solely with long hours spent at the office. That’s not necessarily a sign of dedication.
Lets commit to becoming truly fair today. Lets stop playing the games of old and step into the new reality.