John Wooden was arguably one of the best coaches in sports history. He won the NCAA championship ten times in 12 years – seven of which were in a row. Not only that, he was also a fantastic player and he is the only person ever to be named basketball All-American both as a player and as a coach. So John knows all about finding and using talent (see this fantastic TED video).
For John performance was clearly important but famously his players have said that they don’t remember John Wooden ever stressing the importance of winning a game. He wasn’t obsessed or even focused on the points on the board. For him it was about sticking to the fundamentals and making an effort to reach your potential. If you do this the points will come and you will win.
I think companies can learn something from this thinking. In most areas of people assessment and evaluation companies are focused – even obsessed – with measuring results (the points on the board) instead of effort.
- Talents are assessed using the famous (notorious?) 9-grid evaluation tool where performance and potential is measured and talents are defined as those scoring high on both. In many cases, performance is equal to results.
- Bonuses are pay increases are often awarded to those who achieve the most i.e. getting the most points.
- Annual reviews are many times nothing more than comparing achievements with stated goals.
There is nothing wrong with focusing on results but I suggest that this should not be the only dimension. Effort should count too. I suggest that the dimensions in the famous 9-grid assessment tool should take into account that ‘performance’ is not just about achieving results but also about applying yourself to the limit of your talent and potential.
I was reminded of this reading this post, which asks the question; “should we reward effort”. My answer is yes, we should also reward effort but not base our evolution purely on effort. You can get results by doing the things wrong or half-heartedly and sometimes you can do everything you can and must and not get the results. The definition of winning is about making your best effort to continuously improve and apply what works – as Coach Wood said. We should reward this in companies too.