By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
One company I worked for made it very clear that hitting or exceeding quarterly and annual revenue targets was not only expected, anything less was unacceptable! Persistent failure provided any employee the opportunity to explore new employment options. I was a regional sales director in the middle of it all, working with my team to help them achieve their respective quotas and enable the region to achieve its revenue target. In turn, I reported to the VP of Sales who needed all the regions to perform for the company to come in at plan. It was always close, never a walk in the park, but we always met our goals (most of the time). Toward the end of each quarter, and particularly at the end of the year, the strategy included daily and nightly conference calls with updates and forecasts. It was micromanagement on steroids. Everyone was a jockey riding a race horse toward the finish line, whipping that horse the entire final stretch. I hated that
That is why a study on whipping race horses caught my attention the other day.
Professors Paul McGreevy and David Evans teamed up with veterinarians Andrew McLean and Bridda Jones at the University of Sydney and found that whipping race horses does NOT increase the odds of finishing in first place, second place or even third place. They found that race horses actually run faster when they are NOT being whipped. The research team analyzed the number of whip strikes in the last 600 meters of races. They found that most whip use occurred in the final 400 meters. A review of the data concluded that horses achieved the highest speeds when no whip was used.
It has been my experience that many employees feel resentful or insecure if they are constantly being micromanaged and pushed to the extreme. While it is good to set high expectations and tough goals, as a leader, you need to very conscious of how hard you are working your team, and make sure that you have a good balance of toughness and encouragement. Oftentimes riding employees to hard is simply counterproductive, similar to whipping race horses.
Are you whipping your race horses toward the finish line? If you are, STOP! Leaders do not need to whip their teams across the finish line. Put away your whip and be the leader of champion thoroughbreds that know how to run fast, if you just get out of their way.
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