What really matter
October 24, 2007
Leaders are caught between using temporal trophies and eternal rewards as motivation.
In for-profit endeavors, it seems easier and more sustainable to carrot employees with better compensation. Not-for-profits are more complex. However, we play the fool if we don't understand that temporality figures largely with employee satisfaction.
The baseline of compensation should be fair and reasonable, both by salary and benefits. Our people live in the same world as for-profit employees.
Moving up the scale can be problematic. For mission agencies (let's call them M1) that require staff to raise their own support, the setting of wages/benefits engages a different dynamic: the employee, regardless of the level of compensation, has to raise that and more — a percentage going to the organization for overhead. Those funded by the money pool operate differently. Let's call them M2.
Over the past 40 years, I've seen a dramatic change in the handling of salary within the M2 group. As not-for-profits become more sophisticated, and as the recruiting of competent staff and faculty push us out to the wider community, competition for their services—especially those with excellent credentials—pushes us into salary zones more akin to our secular counterparts.
This, on the surface, is good. Compensation fairly assessed presses agencies/organizations to lift their standards in all areas. For as compensation pushes an agency to do better in building its fiscal resources, there is generally initiative to improve its missional engagement.
But this still doesn't answer the issue of motivation and rewards. We know that within the context of fair and reasonable compensation, people are happy about their work for reasons other than money. Job satisfaction—all things being equal—in large comes from sources other than salary scale and benefits.
The downside to this professionalism is—what is the primary tug at our hearts? In life and ministry, what become the paper weights? What, for me—an employee—, is my "Lombardi" trophy?
As president, my satisfaction comes in ways not that different to any one of our faculty or staff. But what drives me, day by day?
Understandably, the daily, weekly, monthly, annual goals hold my nose to the grindstone. In our current major capital campaign, I'm fixed on amounts of pledges and dates assigned. When met, there is exhilaration. Celebration is essential to the human endeavor. But what else drives me? Really?
Underneath our job descriptions and annual reviews is the need to go back to first principles: to be reminded that trophies are determined within a wider setting than here and now; that motivationally, my heart needs to hear the voice of the Lord more distinctly than accolades of peers or manager; to know in real time and heart-felt emotion that what we do ripples out onto eternity, eternity that is both now and to come.
We endanger our people and organizations if we don't regularly remind each other of the real trophies that come as a result of our work. This is not to be used as an excuse for less than fair compensation, but to hold us inside the circumference of our ultimate calling—to serve the Lord of creation and Saviour of all.
Lord of all, beyond trophies and human praise, let me feel the lift that comes from receiving the "Lombardi Trophy" of Your giving. As much as I love to meet goals, overcome adversity, and solve problems, may those successes then become paperweights compared to Your trophies. Amen.
If you don't have the Vince Lombardi Trophy, everything else is a paperweight.