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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


So I'm sitting in class during graduate school, and one of the worst professors we've ever had makes one more arbitrary, disorganized, and incredibly time-wasting assignment right before final exams. Before I could stop myself, I said, "But that's not fair!"

His response was, "The world isn't fair." Since I was now on a roll, I responded with, "Come on over to my house, the world is fair over there." Needless to say, my political skills still needed work, but I still think the point was well made. Still can't figure out why I got a "B" in that class though...

"The world" isn't fair or unfair; the world is the world. If you want to be happy in life, you just need to learn how the world works to get the results you want, right?

"Fairness" is a human concept that is determined by humans; i.e., whoever has the power in the environment you're in. Any organization takes on the values of its leader. If you're the leader of an organization, and fairness is one of your values, then that world will be fair because you can deliver the positive and negative consequences to make it so.

If you want sustained success as a leader, my strong recommendation is that you ensure that your organization is fair; i.e., that everyone feels treated with respect and that it's clear how you receive both positive and negative consequences. For example, "If I go above and beyond my job duties I get a raise and a promotion, if I am chronically absent I get terminated."

3 reasons fairness leads to sustained success:

  1. People feeling cared about, including being treated fairly, is the #1 predictor of leadership success.

  2. Ambiguity is the enemy; it needs to be crystal clear how to succeed in your organization.

  3. If the folks that go above and beyond get the same outcomes (pay, promotions, etc.) as the folks who do the minimum, then everyone will stop going above and beyond because it doesn't pay off. Now you've got that disengaged workforce you hear so much about.

Fairness is particularly important in family businesses. It's almost impossible to attract and retain the best team if everyone knows that the best jobs are automatically going to go to family members whether they are qualified for them or not.

As a leader, is your world fair?

High-Performance Habits

  1. Hire good people, and then treat them the way you'd like to be treated (unless you like being treated badly, which is a whole different discussion).

  2. Make what success looks like crystal clear for every position in your organization, and give rewards accordingly.

  3. Give people a clear career path; i.e., someplace to go, when they do well. If you don't, they'll literally go someplace else.

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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