Friday, April 24, 2009

Award , Reward and Complete Disaster



Very plainly put, awards are recognition under reward schemes.

It is commonly believed in the corporate world that whatever you reward, you get more of that and so, usually corporates implement various reward and recognition schemes, to encourage high performance in desired business parameters and award a selected few to send out a positive message.

My intention here is not at all to argue out a case in favour of or against this idea ; nor to judge the merits of the modalities/tools commonly used under these reward schemes to select the “ Best of the Pack ” / Best Performers as against the others who do not get selected despite playing as well or even much better.

[Honestly, if I am asked to take a view, I would rather be in favour of the idea of at least having some reward schemes and giving public recognition to some, and keep on streamlining the schemes based on actual experience, rather than not recognising anyone out of the fear that the scheme is not full-proof to pick up the real best. Actually what matters and can serve the real purpose behind these awards is that everyone should appreciate that these awards are more symbolic in nature and meant to send out a positive message that your organisation is committed to high performance and your contribution is getting noticed at the higher levels.

So, rock on … !

It boomerangs the moment it is claimed that the award winners are the best ones and all others are non- or lesser performers. By its very nature, the playing field in a widely spread-out service organisation, strictly speaking, can never be truly equal and there are not yet tangible measures to evaluate the pure individual contributions of a single person to the results emanating necessarily from team play. But yet, there is no denying the fact that the award winners are definitely high performers and there is no denying the fact that leadership does make a difference to the quality of teamplay: an average team can do wonders under effective leadership; while an excellent team may turn mediocre under poor leadership. Hence, the awards are necessary to spread the right message !!]

Apart from the corporate message regarding visibility of the high performers, there is another important dimension to an ‘award’ and that is : award is basically a public recognition of your merit and hence, it sort of demands greater work with higher commitment and greater excellence ! Ordinarily, awards are expected to enthuse the winners to move to a higher orbit of performance. Check out if that is happening or not; if yes, your reward schemes are a huge success. After all, the best index of success is its longevity.


Perhaps the most crucial dimension that distinguishes reward from award is that while award is a public recognition that you get for doing something well, reward is an inner feeling of becoming by doing something well.

While awards expect or demand that the winner should move on to a higher plane, reward drives from within and automatically propels the person to a higher orbit of performance.

Nothing more apt could have been said than what Emerson observes about reward :

“The reward for a good job done is having done it well”.

Because, having done a good job, you feel a unique uplifting sense of satisfaction and inner drive for doing still better, irrespective of whether others in the gallery are watching you or not.

To some extent, awards also propel and generate inner drive for higher performance; but there is a great risk of its turning out to be transient, as it draws its sustenance from recognition from others : next time, if despite giving a dazzling performance, you do not get the award, there is a big possibility that it demotivates you more than the award motivated you the first time.

A Complete Disaster

My hubby got the most coveted Award of his Bank ( Best Regional Manager) for two years consecutively ( although it is called Best RM award, about 30 odd Regional Managers were winners of this award and for 2007-08, my hubby was positioned at number one). It is customary in our Bank to felicitate the awardees, along with their spouses to publicly acknowledge the significance of family support behind the high achievers ( that’s really sweet ! ).

On 18th of this month, I accompanied my hubby to Mumbai for a felicitation of all the Best Regional Managers and Best Branch Managers – all with their spouses – felicitation at the hands of none other than the Chairman. It was a scintillating function organised in the garden of Chairman’s residence ( which has been awarded the Best Residential Garden of Mumbai by BMC this year).

Chairman’s speech was crisp n enlightening – which was followed by giving away of awards, photo sessions, experience sharing by some awardees. Names were called out randomly for experience sharing and our turn did not come ! To be honest, I thought my hubby would definitely get a chance to speak – I was also sort of prepared to speak a few words as a spouse – I had my thoughts gathered, for a change!

I had thought, on behalf of the spouses of the award winners, I would thank the Bank, the Chairman and the top brass for this wonderful way of honouring the top performers and making them share this credit with their other halves. I sincerely wanted to thank the Chairman for having revised the reward money substantially upward which could enable our family to go on a fabulous Europe tour last October on special LFC granted under this reward scheme.

I had thought, I would share this honour with the countless others back home in the Region and Circle, and their family members, who teamed up with my husband to deliver this splendid performance, but for which we would not have been here taking the award !

I had thought, I would compliment the award-winners and at the same time, urge them to always remember two things: firstly, that award propels and demands higher performance with greater excellence and total commitment. The onus now falls on them to prove to themselves at each step ahead that they deserved every bit of it , by doing better than their past best. Secondly, they have to remember that at the end, the reward for your perseverence is not what you get for it , but what you become by it. So award or no award, you must keep on giving your best shot, doing better than your best.

Alas… there were only thoughts ; but no action taken by me to create an opportunity for sharing my mind. I could have simply asked the organiser ( a close friend of mine) to announce my name for speaking on behalf of the spouses. I did not do that. Soon, there came the vote of thanks and then group photo session was announced. So our chances to speak on this golden occasion gone – or so I thought !!

But see the irony ! As it needed some re-arrangement to be done for the group photos, there was a sudden announcement for volunteers from the audience to sing on stage. Daughter of one of the awardees volunteered and gave a beautiful rendering. Meanwhile, the compere, who happens to be the organiser of this event and a very close friend of mine, came over and whispered to me that I was going to sing next ! I was really caught off-guard and started waving her saying “ No, No” – but she went up the dias and announced my name saying that since I am her batch-mate, she knows I sing very well and that she can take this liberty with me !!

Oh, God ! how I was feeling … too shy, gigly and wanting to strangle my friend’s neck right there !! But to keep her honour, I went up the stage, took the mike ( at the heart of my heart, I always knew till then that once I hold a mike, I can never fail in singing !) and started singing my most favourite prayer.

But I was in for the greatest shock of my life ! As I started singing, I thought my voice is trembling unduly and just after three lines, suddenly I stopped singing, giggled and said, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ and sort of, ran away from the stage. Of course, whatever little I sang, drew a good applause and later on, lot of nice comments – likes of ‘singing so beautifully, why did not you sing fully’, ‘ have a beautiful voice – must work on it’ etc.

BUT, BUT, BUT …. The fact remains that .. ( so painful to admit ! ) I walked off the stage mid-way ; I failed to sing though I claim to be a talented singer and I failed before whom … the Chairman, the top brass, a wide cross-section of our own people – an audience before which anyone in this bank would die to showcase one’s talent !!

I failed to take a rare and golden opportunity that was given to me by my dear friend, which could have been used by me both for speaking a few words and singing : First, with the mike in my hand, I could have said what I had thought of saying, as there was no thanks-giving done by any one from the ‘spouses’ group. I could have made my short speech still peppier by adding that though it is not the rule to speak after the vote of thanks, I am taking the liberty to break the rule and thank the bank for …. blah… blah .. .

Then I could have started singing, and I am sure, after speaking for sometime, that grip on voice automatically comes and I could have really rendered the way I usually sing. [By the way, later when I heard my hubby’s mobile recording, I suddenly realised that my voice was not sounding as shaky as I thought on stage !! So, another act of foolishness out of stage fright. Actually, suddenly, I went blank and forgot the next line.)

So.. it was a complete disaster; complete in every sense because what I did amounts to snatching a defeat out of the jaws of victory and none other than me was responsible for this failure to seize a golden opportunity !! It is awful to admit this in this public medium; but perhaps that is the first thing that I need to do as penance. What went wrong with me … despite having my thoughts gathered for the short speech, despite getting a request to sing ( I did not have to volunteer or beg for a chance ), despite getting a platform with a high profile audience that included Chairman , MDs, DMDs etc. and their spouses ???

No, it was not stage fright. It was not lack of practice either, although I did not have scope to practice for about a week before that. It was not even because I was not expecting a request for singing.

When I analyse now, post-facto, in a detached and honest manner, I see the reason in my habit of saying “ No, No” to singing whenever I am asked to !! This has become a strange second nature to me, when it comes to singing before anyone on request. The same kind of absurd shyness grips me even at this age, as it used to, when I was a child !! There is no rationale for it, no justification for it !! It is only when I decide to sing in advance that I find myself able to sing comfortably. I realise, this is becoming a self-limiting, almost reflexive behaviour on my part and it is high time, I get out of this ….making very conscious effort. Otherwise, how do I go about my already proclaimed goal of pursuing singing after I left my job???


“The tragedy of life is not death, but what we let die inside of us while we live.”

- Norman Cousins

And I sincerely do not want this tragedy to happen to me . So, I promise myself that as a penance, now I will take or create opportunity to sing the same prayer in full before at least 10 audiences in coming one year !!

So, that’s it !! I just felt like sharing this story of my complete failure. I think, it may resonate with you if you are also finding opportunities passing by without you being consciously aware that it is of your own making. Do some soul-searching and change what is needed to be changed within. Are you wondering what is the relationship between award/reward and disaster ?

Well, award and reward come after success; failure or disaster comes before success . Then there goes the saying : failure is the pillar of success . Take both the hypotheses together and you get some sequence like : failure, success, reward, award …..

So let me start now … afresh, my recent complete disaster notwithstanding !!!!

[ And friends, be ready to play me the audience and help me fulfill my self-target, which was carrying another zero originally, but got struck off while typing and I knew, that was the right thing to have happened. Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha ! )


DEBA said...

First of all congrats…to you and your husband on winning the Best RM Award.

I view the awardees as the goal-makers, example-setters and the torch-bearers, whose footsteps are followed by others for raising their standards, increasing their performance and being successful. There is no doubt that your husband is a high-rated performer, dedicated manager and successful team leader. I wish his winning more and more awards in the years to come.

As regards your failure in singing the prayer before the audience, I personally do not see it as a failure, but a successful attempt. You could sing at least a few lines before a large audience for the first time; isn’t it a great thing in itself? I’m sure, you would prepare yourself to sing the full song in the next award ceremony. This is blessing in disguise.

Over and above, as usual, the post is educative. I always look forward to read new posts on your blog because I learn a lot from those posts, thereby enriching my knowledgebase. Thanks, once again.


snigdha said...

hi Babu, thx for yr good wishes. Actually, mine was a real failure - it was not the first time that I was facing an audience. What I wanted to emphasise through my story was that it does not serve anyone to develop a habit of saying in negatives - like 'no, no' even as an apparently harmless off-the-cuff response although we do not mean it. You don't even realise when that starts virtually crippling you with an irrational lack of enterprise to seize or take advantage of opportunities. Moral of my story : talent alone is not enough; there must be a big YES resounding within you to come forward and do what you would like to do - not worrying about anything else and that you should be ever ready to seize an opportunity, if you are not creating one.
well easier said than done . But, continuous thinking on this line will help some day, I believe.

Deba said...

Yes, you are absolutely right. When one says "No" again and again even without meaning it in real sense, then also some sort of negativity creeps into our mind to produce some negative psychic impressions. These psychic impressions blocks the positive vibrations depending upon the intensity of both the negative impression as well as the positive vibration. That is, perhaps, the reason why all the great men emphasize on positive thinking, positive speaking, positive listening and positive doing.


sambit said...

Branding something is a normal habit of us to bundle a thing and throw it out of mind. May be this is a defensive reaction against analysing painful experiences. As to you personally you have a beautiful and focussed voice and you sing very well. I think the audience lost an opportunity to hear it.

snigdha said...

Thanks a ton... Sambit; made me feel re-assured. Needed it.

Rajeswari said...

Just one of those missed opportunities in life...Try saying a meek yes next time and see how well you do!And a big congrats to your husband!!Such awards go to sincere people.