Are We Rewarding the Wrong Things?

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Stuart Miles - www.freedigitalphotos.net

Stuart Miles – www.freedigitalphotos.net

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” —Jose Ortega y Gassett

Denise Morrison became CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company in 2011. While brand recognition remained high, sales were down, employees were complacent, and innovation was non-existent. The company was in a rut.

To find out why the company failed to meet its strategic growth goals, Morrison gathered information – she surveyed 300 of the company’s leaders. Two of their responses stood out.

First, the company’s commitment to decision making by consensus was crippling them. Time-consuming internal debates caused them to miss out on opportunities.

Second, the company’s emphasis on playing it safe meant no one had the courage to innovate.

Morrison realized that the company was rewarding employees for thoughts and behaviors that had served Campbell’s well in the past, but that no longer served its new needs and goals. Morrison’s willingness to learn from her leaders was impressive. Even more so was what she did in response.

First, she changed company policy to support making a decision rather than making a decision by consensus.

Second, she rewarded courage. Leaders were incentivized to take calculated risks, to own outcomes, and to step out of their own and the company’s comfort zones.

Third, she modeled the behavior she wanted to see. At a pivotal moment in the company’s history, she put an end to meandering debates and made a decision. Campbell’s would make the biggest acquisition of its history – $1.5 billion – and it would be on her watch.

Rewards comes in many forms – praise, money, time, high scores, etc. Some may be obvious, while others may not. If we keep on doing things that no longer help us achieve the results we seek, we probably need to stop and asking ourselves, are we rewarding the wrong things?

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