When Fair is Mediocre
Treating everyone the same when they aren’t the same isn’t fair it’s mediocrity. It’s not fair – it’s dumb – to treat a thirty year old the same as a three year old.
Fair or Mediocre:
A newly formed team decided to take turns running their meetings. It sounds fair but does it lead to mediocrity?
At this stage of team formation – newly formed – this decision:
- Breaks the stereotype of “the” leader running meetings. The problem with meetings is bosses run them.
- Reflects a sense of control. They didn’t ask permission to find their own way of working together.
- Aligns with their preferred style. The team consists of younger people who are more comfortable with collaboration and less at ease with hierarchy.
- Shares the workload.
At some point, does fair become mediocre? Taking turns suggests:
- Everyone is equally skilled at facilitating meetings.
- Everyone is equally motivated to lead meetings.
- Novelty has advantages over consistency.
When fair ignores skill and motivation:
- Feelings rather than competence drive organizations.
- Motivated people lose motivation.
- Skills are underutilized.
It’s not fair that those who are less skilled and motivated are treated the same as those who are more skilled and motivated.
This team consistently evaluates their development. They say, “We’re learning that ….” I believe this team’s “try and evaluate” approach takes them far.
Meeting facilitation can be learned by almost anyone. On the other hand, is it logical to believe that some will emerge as more skilled and motivated at leading meetings?
What do you think about taking turns?
How is excellence achieved in collaborative environments?
At the very least, taking turns gives a better appreciation to each person on the difficulties of the task in question. Picking the person that seems most motivated to learn and do a good job after the cycle of turns is not only better for operational excellence, but it helps with morale.
You might also get some good varied ideas from each person that takes a shot and wind up with a merging of the best attributes from all the different implementation attempts.
You’re right on. We might think of going through a rotation like this as leadership development. Once everyone takes a turn they may have a few new attitudes and skills.
As Marcus Buckingham says, there is a difference between treating people equal and treating them fair.
Thanks for adding the equal/fair tension.
Fair isn’t really about treating everyone the same, anyhow. That is equal. I hope to be treated fairly. This means that my leader or superior knows me and tailors to my strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s what I get from you. Treating people fairly means treating them in accordance with who they are.
The concept of taking turns actually makes sense. It provide opportunity to everyone to hone the skill and empower to exercise talent. It is very important concept as it can develop leadership and loyalty into the system. It also has potential to encourage innovation and trust.
When bosses run the meetings, it really become monotonous and people attend meetings, for the shake of attending. Though this concept is not bad, but bosses should ensure to create environment where everyone should feel to contribute. There are meetings where people know who will speak what and hence they prefer to remain silent.
I appreciate your idea of comparing all the people on the same parameter. Leaders should know and acknowledge the experience and skill of people. They should not discount the experience on few parameters.
In some poor performing organizations, there is practice where junior is made boss of senior without any reason. Such practices are generally deliberate to lower the motivation level of honest and ethical people in order to keep them down so that they can not question the wrong decision of authority.
Your insights on the value of taking turns are valuable to me. I hadn’t thought about loyalty and trust. Great add.
We could include respect as a benefit also. Taking turns helps us not minimize the work it takes to lead a meeting, for example.
Reblogged this on rhortonblog and commented:
Absolutely brilliant rebuttal of my thoughts in regards to sharing the leadership and project management within a team. I do stand firm, that in regards to team learning, people should be allowed experiment and experience different roles within a safe environment. This involves letting people take on roles, even though it might not be in the best interests of the output of the team in the short term. But the team learning and personal development gained, surely in the long term, outweighs this.
But on a day to day basis, regarding the actual functioning of a team and of a business team, I do think there needs to be a sense of leadership. Do I actually think in the long term, this will work effectiently, swapping leadership and having meetings be led by the whole group? No I do not…..but a team learning process, is not about, I told you so. It is about me trying new things and seeing what happens? For all I know, in this team, in this instance, it might work for us.
However, I concur with this blog writers thought, that our motivation to share the leadership, is not out of “effectiveness” or what is “best” for the team. It is about being “fair” which almost certainly at the moment, is contributing to our poor performances as a team. May be we are just all being too nice with each other? Or may be there is a fearsome power struggle between some dominant personalities, that giving leadership, is handing over power and elevating someone? Only time will tell……
I wonder if I need to post on when nice isn’t nice… ahhhh, I think I did. Never mind. 🙂
You’re going to push some buttons here Dan! I’ve tried this a few times without great success, people have plenty of opportunity to grow and a meeting can be a great place for that,for MSI have had more success in coaching people on how to contribute to the meeting rather than randomly assign responsibility for the meeting. Personally I think the sharing thing is a lame excuse for not developing people properly – there are plenty of opportunities to shine, done let low performance kill the most important gathering of the day. ( grumpy huh! Ps I confess to having a coffee at 6am in Williamsport Starbucks today – sorry:(. )
Are you kidding? You had coffee in Williamsport today and didn’t call me. I was having a meeting at 7 a.m. just two blocks away. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your experience with sharing. Much appreciated.
Development/training are the goal for sure
Croadie nailed…lazy leadership in guise of assigning responsibility and less than effective ‘coaching’.
Just because someone may be able to do something well does not mean they have a passion for it. If they don’t like to do something, even if they can, shouldn’t the baton be passed to one who is capable and has the drive?
It’s like being the President of the United States: There are many who are well equipped to be President, yet they choose not to run. A good President (or anything else) is one who wants to be. Though there are exeptions to every rule, like Cincinnatus.
You cannot treat everyone the same, but you can have the same expectations out of everyone.
I’m glad you picked up on the combination of talent AND passion. As you say, just because I can doesn’t mean I want to or that I should.
Well fair is where you go to ride rides and eat cotton candy.
It is possible to treat everyone the same, does not take a rocket scientologist to figure that out. YES YES YES!!!!!!!!!!!!
Treat them like you want to be treated. To me that means LISTENING!!!!!!!!!! WATCH!!!!!!!! Each person is different BUT EVERYONE wants to feel loved and appreciated and listened to and validated. Feel they matter!!!!!!! Now you may communicate to person A they matter in one way and to person B in another way! The difference is the personality, the commonality is the principle.
The AA Big Book, The Manual for Successful Living says Principle before Personalities! Get the HORSE in front of the cart and the ride goes MUCH smoother.
Now they may get the feel this “Matter” feeling in different ways. Know it sounds crazy but some folks like a more stern matter of fact approach. “Just the facts, just the facts!” Others want to have me sing Kumbaya to them to stroke them.
Instead of being an idiot and trying to overthink this, just remember, we ALL GOT here the same way. We all got blood flowing through us. We all breathe in and breathe out. We all got to eat, we all got to go to the bathroom. We all want peace of mind to be happy and feel WE MATTER!!!!!!!!!!!! DUH!!!!!!!! Keep it simple! DO SIMPLE!
My suggestion, you listening to anyone who don’t get that………..STOP LISTENING TO THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL They may be real nice and have great intentions but their insight into human beings could fit in a thimble, a very small thimble.
Each of God’s kids is unique, if you take the time to really get to know them you will treat each a little different, nuances and what not. The end result is the same, people want to feel love and to love.
Keep it that simple and keep FAR AWAY from folks who clearly do not get it and are trying to make it more complicated than it really is.
It is like being a waiter!!!!!!!!!! Some customers feel you ought to wait on them hand and foot. Some just want you to take their order and bring their food. IF YOU STUDY PEOPLE you can get the hang of what kind of person you are serving and deliver what they want the way they want it.
The end result is the same, one demander, one tree-hugger. But the bottom line is they both have a NEED! Fill the need and they think you are the greatest waiter in the world.
YES one size DOES NOT FIT ALL!!!!!!!!! But for every screw there is a NUT that fits it!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Be an ADJUSTABLE NUT I always say!!!! Ok first time I said that but will repeat it often in my inner dialogue today. Maybe add some music like the music of Boogie Wonderland with the same lyric, “Be an Adjustable Nut” over and over! That will be cool! I can hear it right now!!!! LOL
Just remember just cause people get somebody to mass produce their thoughts on paper does not mean it is worth you reading it and taking it in. God gave you a brain, use it.
I say look and connect with God’s other kids just deliver that they matter to you in the way you have discovered they will listen to you.
Shifterp back to NOW!
So treating everyone the same is treating everyone differently – as individuals. Sounds fair to me.
Cool!!! Fair seems cool!!!!
Have a good one!!
Like being a chef!!! Two folks, two preferences! One meat eater, one vegetarian! You cook the greatest steak in the world and give it to a non meat eater….loss!!!
Give some great tofu to a meat and potatoes guy or gal, could be the greatest tofu ever made but they ain’t gonna think much if u as a chef!!!!!
The common thing is they are both hungry, so feed them, but take the time to find out what delights their individual palate. Then your great cooking will be seen and tasted as great!!
Rotations are a loser. Some people want to give their contribution yapping their gums. Cool. Others are terrified presenting in front of a group so don’t do that to them. Find a way they can give their contribution in ways they don’t hate.
Each can and wants to give theirs, wake up and look at them and help open a way for their imprisoned splendor may escape!!!!
SP back to now!!
It seems like this post has challenged most our imagined concept of fairness and i applaud you Dan for breaking through and challenging some of our notion of fairness. I once led a team where there was rotational leadership structure set up, rather than the meetings being productive and accomplishing anything, it became a wait and see what i will do when it is my turn session. Many people use the gavel as an iron rod to beat up on their colleagues and use it as an opportunity to be the tyranical “boss for a day”. To cut the long story short, the company cancelled all future meetings and the real boss took over the team leadership that later turned back into the top down approach rather than the bottom up approach the meeting was supposed to be about.
We have all been there at one point or another, but one should be courageous enough to admit what works and does not.So i agree with Dan that the notion of fairness is really not the meeting leadership should be about getting together based on a mission or an agenda to accomplish a shared goal for the benefit of the organization. I like value-adding meetings and could care less about who leads it, over a non productive ego directed meetings.
Your story adds value to the conversation and is a warning about what could go wrong with taking turns. Very helpful.
This is a thorny one. First of all, I second Meghan’s distinction between fair and equal. We are not equal in terms of skills. For my money, taking turns doing anything within the same context (for instance, the same project) erodes role clarity. When that happens, the requirements of the actual role fail to be met and that is a prescription for disaster. I think it is okay for the occasional substitute (Joe will take the meeting tomorrow because I have a conference with the VP), but not a round robin on leadership. On the next project, Joe may be the leader and I may have a non-leadership role, but at least the roles are clear. I think role clarity is a key success factor.
Love it…anything that creates confusion hampers success. Anything that creates clarity enhances success.
There is the idea of taking turns as development that we can still be open to… in that case, going slow comes before going fast. Let people develop and then get out of the way.
Dan, Your topics often hit close to home for me; but this one is a direct hit. Your juxtaposition of fairness and mediocrity provides such a good illustration — and Meghan’s introduction of the “equality” distinction even furthers the value of the discussion. I’m often accused of having an overactive fairness “gene” (which is probably why I spent 10 years officiating football and basketball). But mediocrity is anathema.
To me, mediocre performance denotes an acceptance of just being average. Not that average is bad; but I think it’s important that we all try to be the best we can at whatever task or objective (small or large) we undertake; while acknowledging the reality that only a very few can actually achieve that. But given a fair set of rules at least we all have an equal opportunity to try to achieve it.
I love leading my team. They hate for their performance to be mediocre. Even though they know they can’t be stars on every task or project assigned to them, they at least try. My personal perception is that if they aren’t willing/driven to at least try — if they settle for “just OK” from the very start — then that guarantees mediocrity.
I appreciate your personal transparency. I’m a “give everyone a chance” type… I give too much time sometimes. Results matter too.
Your addition of passion for excellence is so important. Any team that takes turns just because it’s easy is going to lose.
Also, in a collaborative environment, everyone must become the champion of excellence – holding each other accountable. In collaborative environments accountability can be a challenging issue.
I love this method for beginning teams. It’s like a tryout for leadership. At some point, though, a leader naturally emerges and should be recognized and empowered.
YOu make me think about the issue of not acknowledging who the leaders are… at that point the most vocal, or the one with a gripe becomes the leader. Disaster if you ask me.
However, if we hold each other accountable, I think this problem diminishes.
Using the specific example of leading meetings/taking turns, sure, do it…if you, as leader, have done all of the prep work, the pre-meeting, coaching sessions, have set up a standardized process that all are aware of and agree to and that that purpose of the meeting is clear. Well before the meeting, the expectations need to be clear. Is it daily, sure, share the experience in a relatively safe way that provides feedback regularly (and of course celebrates success). Weekly needs more prep, monthly, more, etc.
It seems excellent collaborative environments have underpinnings of continuous learning, expectation of failure with course correction, passion, and unconditional positive regard.
BTW, about fairness..don’t where I heard it, but three adages to live by…
1. Life is not fair (my longer interpretation: get down off your cross, build a bridge and get over yourself, stuff happens.)
2. There’s no free lunch.
3. You can’t be everyone’s friend.
I’m exhausted after reading your comment. Thanks for getting down and dirty with this idea. Taking turns should never be an excuse for lack of preparation.
It all depends on your meeting objectives. I think it’s an antiquated view that one only needs one leader for team meetings though. It’s different if the meeting is focused on something specific (i.e. status updates) but, in general, I think collaboration is important for team building. Mediocrity occurs when objectives are loose or when there is a meeting format mismatch.
Some meetings could be led by the leader because the leader is gathering information and opinions from the team…but, in the end, the leader is going to make the final decisions. However, the problem of a leader controlling, dominating, and tailoring input to their personal agenda is still a factor.
Even when meetings are designed to help an individual make a decision, a skilled meeting facilitator is useful.
Other meetings are about consensus decisions.
I would suggest “it depends.” What is the desired outcome? Efficiency… Effectiveness… Training… Sharing…
From time-to-time, what is considered an essential competency changes. Coaching and Mentoring were the hot themes emerging 5-10 years ago. Today, the hot theme is facilitation. Emerging leaders must have a core competency to facilitate meetings, groups and teams. If sharing is part of the training process – learning by doing could be a great development strategy. If this is the case, then sharing facilitation responsibilities can have a very specific outcome that can benefit the organization as a whole.
I have found that when a team is getting stale and people are starting to disengage, it’s a great opportunity to mix things up by asking each person to take a different role than their typical role. It invites sharing and learning, and can’t help but deliver a fresh perspective. From that exercise, sometimes new leaders emerge. Have you tried this?
Hi Dan, I’ll prefer to use the word ‘equity’ as in real life, fairness is hardly possible. As leaders, we try to deploy people according to their strengths to enable high staff engagement and productivity. Equity is achieved when the majority of the staff is gainfully engaged. More competent people will always do more and that’s a fact of life. Job rotation is fine as long as they are not deployed to expose their weakness.
Run into this so frequently in my work, leading teams of people from multiple cultures of the Middle East and Central Asia. Notions of authority, power, prestige, face, and so much more cloud what is ultimately this beautifully articulated point: The golden rule is only golden if it is informed by actual, real-life observation and information. Nothing will continue to work well that is applied universally and without reflective insight. Have to lead both from the crow’s nest, and the decks of the ship… navigating the space between is maybe the hardest part.