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Your team has a win; celebrate, but don't reward them.

Hitting the target, achieving KPIs, making the sale; all these are examples of 'desirable outcomes'. But, we shouldn't reward our team when they occur.


The archer draws his bow as he has done 10,000 times before. He is a master of his craft; every part of his execution is flawless. The target lies 100 paces ahead, and his aim is perfect.

He releases the arrow.

At that very moment a gust of wind, neither predictable in its timing or intensity, alters the flight of the arrow. It's resting place is 30 cm left of the desired target.

Should the archer be disappointed? Should his commander demote him? What meaning can he find in this shot?

It is clear from our example that the archer fired a perfect shot, and that he can demand no more of himself. Likewise, his commander can expect nothing more.

What this means in a modern workplace:

We must focus on behaviour, not outcomes. We cannot ask our team to produce outcomes when there are factors affecting those outcomes which are outside their control. The most we can ask is that they execute flawlessly (an aspirational aim).

How to do this:

1. The leadership team must decide what the desirable outcomes are.

2. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) must determine the behaviour which, in the absence of external factors, will result in those desirable outcomes being achieved.

3. Leaders must then focus on instilling that 'ideal' behaviour into the team.

This is done by:

  • Ensuring your culture reinforces that behaviour.

  • Setting behaviour-based not outcome-based goals (like KPIs).

  • Focusing on observed behaviour vs 'ideal behaviour' in debriefing.

  • Rewarding 'ideal behaviour', even if desirable outcomes were not achieved.

  • NEVER rewarding outcomes which result from poor or average behaviour.

By focusing on behaviour, we increase the probability that we hit the target more often over time.

'Celebrate' outcomes...sure. But don't reward them. Reward behaviour.

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