38117111_mOn a recent trip, I visited a social enterprise. I love spending time in the field. I believe nothing is better than talking to people on the telephone, and better still, in person.

The CEO of this organization walked me around his office proudly talking about their fundraising efforts. I thought he was great in personally introducing me to each member of his team. That’s an awesome leadership touch.

At one point he stopped at the desk of a major gift officer and proudly informed me that she was the organization’s MVP and star player. She smiled, probably a little embarrassed and he went on talking about how great she was and how much money she was raising in comparison to others on the team.

I think it’s awesome to be supportive of great team players, but my thought immediately turned to the other major gift officers sitting in the same bullpen area. I wondered what they thought of the CEO speaking so highly about his “MVP and star player.”

We like to think–or at least hope–that everyone who joins our team is going to be an excellent player. I talk with my own team about A, B and C players. You always want “A” team leaders. You want “B” players who strive to become “A” staff members. And, sometimes managers are faced with “C” team members who for whatever reason are not quite making the cut. A good manager will develop a performance management plan and after a finite time, decide if that person can step up or is better served working elsewhere.

One thing, we as leaders and managers have to be careful with, is the praise we give our star players. I know there’s a natural inclination to want to cheer an MVP. We think that type of acknowledgement will be a great ongoing motivator for our star player and send a signal to others that they too can rise up to that level.

The next time you’re thinking about praising your MVP, think about how and when you’re doing it. If you’re doing it in team meetings in front of others, or when people come to visit your office, you may be making a mistake.

What you’re actually doing is creating an environment of resentment. Think about it. Your MVP may be held up as an example, but you could well be signaling someone out to the detriment of everyone else. In other words, it’s essential that praise is spread to all of your team members. And, if you have some “C” team members, then speak about the team itself or find some aspect of the work where you can complement that staff person.

Not too long ago one of my teams evolved and expanded with new staff. I view this as an opportunity. I want my team, and their managers, to work and behave as a team. Sure, I know who can be considered an MVP and who might need more work. But, I don’t want to inflate the head of my star players.

Instead, I want my team and their managers to operate as a team. That means we have to be wise about our words and actions. I want them to work as a unit and that means they have to trust, like and respect each other. If I walk around praising my rock stars, or their managers do it, we begin to build invisible walls that are worse than solid brick.

What happens next?

Morale begins to take a hit. Resentment begins to creep into the environment. The “team” is sidelined for the “individual.”

In other words, it doesn’t work.

So, the next time as a manager you’re thinking of complementing your MVP, take a pause and think about how and when you should be doing it. Yes, praise is important, but it’s got to be spread to your entire team and not to just one or two staff people.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)


© 2016 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.