I am proud of my website and readily admit I had very little to do with its design or construction, other than answer questions for a tremendous thinker, Boston’s Steve Bennett. Bennett specializes in author websites. He developed my cocktail napkin design after interviewing me for an hour with my publicist and one of his staff members also on the call.
Once Steve developed the napkin concept and designed the site layout, he gave me a list of stuff to assemble, write, and complete. I did as instructed and am very proud of the result. For better or worse, my site is all me and represents 100 percent of who I am, what I’ve done, and what I love to do. Bennett captured, organized, and packaged it into a viewer-friendly format. He also insisted on the blog. I had long resisted writing a blog but now I enjoy it. I especially enjoy hearing from readers.
Bennett is captive to his talents. His business is AuthorBytes.com and he supports 237 authors (and counting), including some really big names. Most of his clients are low maintenance. A couple drive him nuts. I am low maintenance, in case you’re wondering.
Steve doesn’t just think up how to capture a unique look for each writer he helps, he also has to manually perform a lot of technical gymnastics. This guy knows so much he’s intimidating. The front of the computer screen is, to me, a happy, friendly place. But his world, the inner workings, are relentless swordfights of incompatibility, formatting conflicts, and structural design flaws. Steve shadowboxes a million things I am unaware exist.
Today he was uploading to my site some of my TV appearances. Sounds easy, right? Cirque de Soleil doesn’t look complicated either. Have a beer and try it.
Steve got frustrated, temporarily stymied by formatting incompatibility and a host of interconnected frustrations. I was helpless to assist. His is jungle warfare, binary style.
I told him that due to his talent and expertise, he is a very much a victim of performance punishment: The better he is at something, the more of it he has to do.
We see performance punishment at work all the time. Get really good at something and what’s the reward? Often you get stuck having to do more of it. Since Steve owns his company, he is accountable. He has to do it. I picked Bennett because I looked at AuthorBytes and what I saw was fabulous. Feel free to visit his site and decide for yourself. Every author has his or her unique look that captures what he or she writes about. Many sites show the author’s picture because he or she is attractive and thin. Me? I’m a cocktail napkin with notes and arrows.
It should come as no surprise that Saturday evening I wrote on three napkins at Chap’s pub at the Steamboat Grand in Steamboat Springs, helping a stranger understand why his fiancée struggles with opening up and sharing things deeply rooted in her upbringing. I am, after all, a cocktail napkin waiting to serve. Bennett is a napkin destined to serve, too. A binary napkin.
I run into performance punishment issue quite often. For example, a European client company I was helping a couple years ago was frustrated because its account managers weren’t growing their accounts by the targeted ten percent. They were stuck at zero percent.
I asked two questions and solved the problem. The first was, “How are they paid?”
Told, “Straight salary,” I asked the second.
“If I can fix the problem will you tweak the comp plan?”
They said yes.
We tied the desired revenue growth to a bonus structure aligned with the objectives and the problem went away. On straight salary, selling more created more self-work (which no one wanted to do). Theirs is a complicated business. There is nothing easy about it and expanding relationships creates significantly more failure points. The account managers were already busting their tails to do good work. Heaping more on them without reward created the textbook performance punishment reaction: When penalized for doing well, people will behaviorally shut down. It’s a very predictable inevitability, especially in the world of sales.
People who are good at something but feel taken advantage of should push back and ask that the workload be spread upon all, not heaped upon an unlucky few. Unequal workloads and sliding scale expectations give birth to slackers. Slackers create morale problems. These are problems easily solved. Eliminate performance punishment and both morale and performance increase.
I worked my way through school as a meat-cutter in a grocery store and am now a poster child for performance punishment. Years ago I was very popular in a hunting camp during deer season. I cleaned every deer, regardless who got it. One day I decided enough was enough; I was tired of doing other guys’ dirty work. I quit cleaning deer and insisted the others learn and get grubby, too.
Thus ended my hunt club popularity. One of the guys thanked me for teaching him how to dress a deer. The others voted me out and looked for a new ex-butcher.
But that’s okay. I took up flyfishing. Whenever I catch one, I always let it go.
Leave a Reply