Do you remember hearing this phrase, about how you can lead a horse to a water source, but you can't actually make them drink from it? The thinking is in the same vein as the adage about how teaching a person to fish goes a lot farther than simply handing them a fish.
In other words, you can only go so far in helping someone before they have to take ownership of the task themselves. Otherwise you really haven't helped them get past a single point in time, a single challenge.
You Make Your Own Guarantees
I'm a compensation consultant, and clients usually reach out to me when they have a compensation challenge that needs a solution. And that challenge usually revolves around how best to spend the almighty dollar. Here's what I tell them:
"I can promise to show you how to save money (or in general fix your problem), but I cannot guarantee to personally save you a dime. You have to do that yourself."
What I'm saying is that, while I can study your situation, gather reams of data and present recommendations for you to consider based on my considerable experience, until you make the decision yourself to take action (change behavior, adopt new policies / procedures, adjust your perspective, etc.) improvement will not actually happen. You have to be willing to change. You have to be willing make the sort of tactical and strategic decisions that will solve your problems. You have to be willing to step up and stand for the right kind of change.
And that is where things start to break down, as some of those decisions can be hard to make. Many managers and even senior leaders can be loathe to shake things up.
- We pontificate about our pay-for-performance programs, but still want to give everyone a raise
- We don't want variable pay to really be "at risk," as what we practice is actually a form of delayed compensation. "Don't worry, you'll get something."
- Someone might get mad at these changes and decide to quit
- We've never done that before (uncomfortable with stepping outside the comfort zone)
- Not everyone is going to agree with this approach (we believe in consensus thinking)
- How much is this going to cost me? "Oh, I don't want to spend that much."
- "Really? That sounds difficult to implement. Can't we just tweak what we do now?"
- "How long are these changes going to take to implement? I don't have that kind of time."
- Etc, etc, etc.
Now the above are just examples - excuses really - that suggest it would really be a better approach for some to simply stay the course. I'm sure that each reader can quote a few similar examples from their own organization. The point is that the sort of change that really impacts the organization, that can actually solve many of the compensation challenges you face, are often hard to make. That's why you haven't undertaken them before. There are going to be winners and losers, and too often management worries more about the losers (Joe average performers) than in taking care of the winners (your star performers).
As a consultant I not only make recommendations but also try to show the client what is likely behind door #1, door #2 and door #3 of their options. What is going to happen. But I can't make the decision for them. Nor should I.
Always remember that many managers put being liked at or near the top of their personal agenda, and often times the kind of changes an organization requires is not going to win popularity contests. Hence the tendency in some quarters toward inaction or half-hearted lip service.
So while I can lead a client to the water source, sometimes they just sit there with a blank look.
I hope that isn't you.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image,"You Can Lead a Horse to Water," by jjsala