Do you reward those who make the money or those who posture for it?
Operation Red Wings was a not-so-obscure military operation in the mountains of Afghanistan. It started on June 27th, 2005 with the insertion of a SEAL reconnaissance team onto the side of a mountain near the suspected location of an Afghan insurgent leader. After circumstances that were made famous in a book and by Hollywood, 3 of the 4 SEALs were killed, along with 8 SEALs and 8 Special Operations aviation team members who were sent to rescue the original SEAL team when their helicopter was shot down. Marcus Luttrell became the famous Lone Survivor of the original 4 SEALs in this episode, as documented in his book and in the subsequent movie.
In late June and early July 2005, I was completing a particularly challenging consulting engagement and then taking two weeks off to enjoy some paternity leave surrounding the birth of our second child. I bet I complained about the long hours and the hardships I had to endure with a newborn in the house while I padded around in sock feet and drank the coffee of my choice while enjoying my air-conditioned house in Dallas, TX and my paid leave from a challenging but all-in-all cushy job as a consultant at a global firm.
Anybody see the irony, yet?
Somewhere, there is a fight going on. You might be in the middle of it, and you might not. It’s being carried out on your behalf, and you might not even know it.
In a recent conversation with a finance lead of a very strong business I work with, we came to an agreement on something. The money isn’t made by the spreadsheet jockeys or the executives: It’s made by the gang who’s making product on the shop floor and the salespeople who are making sure the customer is happy and buying.
In other words, there’s a fight going on. Somebody is out there sacrificing their own time and talent on behalf of the company, just like you, except if they don’t do their work today, there is no tomorrow. Perhaps we ought to acknowledge that.
What’s the implication here? It’s nothing new really, but it is important. For all of us who live our lives off of the derivatives and commissions of real value, it’s important to stop and ask whether we are enabling value creation or hindering it.
I can hear it now: “Oh, silly consultant… how could I as an executive be hindering value creation? Look how much they pay me!”
Well maybe, just maybe, you are being paid for what you positioned for, not what you’re worth; it happens. Usually it happens to other people, not to you (that is, I’ve never met someone who would admit they are overpaid–only a few people who admit their jobs were easy).
Yet there are innumerable vain corporate initiatives that create ungodly productivity taxes for organizations without really creating any value. I’m looking at you, activity-based accountants and demanders of the 90-page board report that nobody reads; they are everywhere. Often, they are directed by people who enjoy plenty of time in their sock feet drinking the coffee of their choice while those who are in the fight struggle a world away. Except that a world away in instances like this could be just on the other side of the wall on the shop floor, or around the corner in the sales office.
I recognize that it’s a little bit strained to compare people who are struggling to get product off the dock or to make the next sale to Navy SEALs fighting in Afghanistan, but the imperative is the same. Whether we’re talking about citizenship in a free society or our own work as executives, managers, and analysts, somebody out there is fighting on your behalf, and you’ll be a better pro if you recognize it.
So, do you reward those who make the money or those who posture for it?