Why Bad Leaders Only Reward Results

Sack in Hand

We’ve all heard the saying “the results speak for themselves,”  but do they really?

The recent ESPN documentary, Long Gone Summer, highlights the infamous 1998 baseball season where Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’s home run record. If you were McGwire’s baseball manager in 98’ and only looked at the results, you give nothing except praise and recognition to McGwire. 

We now know McGwire was using performance-enhancing drugs during the season. McGwire’s reputation was tarnished and he is proof that: 

Leaders who solely reward people based on results are using the wrong formula for long-term success.  

When studying what the best leaders do for Building the Best, I found a formula leaders leverage to get consistently high results from themselves and their people. It’s is called The Route to Results: High standards produce behaviors. Those behaviors, when practiced repeatedly, become a habit, and those habits lead to results.

No alt text provided for this image

The Route to Results is especially important when it comes to rewards and recognition and ensuring their team gets the results the right way. 

Goodhart’s law

Goodhart’s law states that “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”  In a recent video, Jason Feifer, the Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine and host of the Pessimists Archive Podcast, highlighted why Goodhart’s Law should be used properly by leaders. 

Feifer highlights exactly why the best leaders shouldn’t reward the results and instead should reward behaviors.  

The Challenge with Remote Work

Rewarding behavior isn’t easy because the vast majority of teams and businesses are run and measured based on their current results.  While this makes sense, it also creates an arbitrary system for leaders to demand results by a certain time.  

When leading a remote team, rewarding behaviors becomes even more challenging.  When a leader and a team member are physically around each other, its easier to observe and encourage the correct behaviors and habits.  In a remote work setting, the major measurements are outcomes and results. However, remote work doesn’t exempt people from cutting corners to get short-term results in a way they will cost the team in the long run.  

Reward the Extra Step

Jeff is a current sales manager. Since his team now works remotely instead of just rewarding, recognizing, and celebrating when a team member closes a sale, he looks inside the CRM and shares an “extra step” the salesperson took with the entire team. By doing so, he reinforces the behaviors requires to win the sale versus the sale itself. 

If you are in a position of leadership with a remote team, reward, recognize and celebrate the behaviors and habits that lead to results, not the results themselves.  


In the final scenes of Long Gone Summer, Mark McGwire said, “I believe I was put on this earth to hit home runs, but I also believe I was put on this earth to pass on knowledge. Not many people have been in the position to be on the top like I was, but I was also on the bottom. I don’t think you can get to the top without scratching the surface of the bottom floor.”

Not only did McGwire admit his use of Performance Enhancing drugs but now he is passing on knowledge to help us be better performers and leaders. For that, we should be grateful.

Take the Free Leadership Style Quiz? Join over 40k leaders and discover your current leadership style for free.

Download the Leading Remote Teams Toolkit for free Here.

About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is currently scheduling virtual workshops and keynotes. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Top 3 Leadership Skills You Must Master Right Now

Have you ever wondered what separates average managers from good leaders? It’s not raw, natural talent. No, its something much more straightforward, and the answer lies in two simple words you and everyone else has control over, work and effort.

There is a fundamental truth around leadership from all of my research and interviews that’s important both you and I not only understand but believe in our core. 

You become the leader you construct

Only you have control over your development as a leader, and you have to take ownership of it.

To ensure we are on the same page, we must level set on what I mean by leadership. I define it in Building the Best as: “Inspiring, empowering, and serving in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.”

Leading like this requires the combination of a series of skills working together. The list isn’t short but here are a few of them:

  • Personability
  • Positivity
  • Empathy
  • Trust (relationship-building)
  • Recognition
  • Coaching
  • Listening
  • Vulnerability
  • Accountability
  • Vision
  • Mindset
  • Decisiveness

Many individual skills in leadership are essential for you to develop. But much like the game of golf, some skills are more important than the others. If you are going to go from an average manager to a good leader, these are the ones you need to work on mastering first. 

1.Develop Trust

The ability to lead a team starts with good, quality, professional relationships, built on the bond of mutual trust. All effective leaders consistently share their competence and the care they have for their people in order for trust to grow.  

The simplest and most effective way to understand precisely how trust is built comes from Reid Hoffman: Trust = Consistency + Time

When you break down the simple formula, it makes so much sense. Regardless of how long you have been leading other people, we can all relate to building trust with someone in our lives. Trust is the foundation every relationship is built upon, and it’s created by consistency over time. This means you have to do what you say you are going to do, day in and day out. 

Pro Tip- All leaders are challenged to overcome different biases to have better trust-filled relationships across their team. However, our instinct as human beings is to gravitate toward and trust people who look, act, and behave like us. If you want better trust-filled relationships, look beyond commonalities.  

2. Reward, Recognize and Appreciate

One of the most critical skills for leaders to develop today is giving praise. Praise encompasses rewarding, recognizing, and showing authentic appreciation for people both in what they produce and who they are.  

It’s important to note that appreciation is different from recognition. Recognition is about the results someone produces.

Tom Peters famously said, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Peters is correct, but recognition is based on a person’s performance. (which is essential and you should reward how they do it) Appreciation is much bigger; it’s about who someone is versus what they produce. It means, “recognizing the value of.” 

There was a study done at the University of Berkley about what motivates productivity. What they found was astonishing. When people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive versus when they didn’t. But when people felt valued and cared for, they were 43% more productive and effective versus than people who didn’t. That’s a 20% improvement when people know they’re appreciated.  

It’s your job as a leader to master the skills related to praise. Not only when to give it, but how to do it, so it means something to person on the receiving end.

3. Accountability Through Conversations

Many words make most people uncomfortable, and accountability is one of those words. Before understanding exactly what accountability was and why it was so crucial for leaders to understand, I felt the same way. Accountability is the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner. The keyword here is an obligation.  

”Great leaders understand it’s their obligation to have uncomfortable conversations.”  

Much like praise, part of your job as a leader is to master the art of having direct dialogues with people that help them improve and motivate them towards movement. A great question to ask yourself, “Do I have a go-to conversation model I know like the back of my hand?”

Next week, I am going to cover the following three most important skills; coaching, listening, and curiosity.

Tell me what you think in the comments

What are the best ways you construct the skills of Relationship Building, Praise, and Accountability in yourself? The best answer receives a free copy of Building the Best.

Elevate the Way You Lead: Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill. It was named the #1 Best New Management Books to Read by Book Authority. Learn the stories, principles, and tools to help elevate the way you lead others.

About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Leadership Skills FAQ

What are the top three leadership skills?

1. Develop trust
2. Praise and recognition
3. Accountability through conversations

How do you demonstrate leadership skills?

5 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership Skills at Work
1. Your actions will always outweigh your words
2. Schedule regualar one-on-one sessions with your team members
3. Listen to others
4. Be positive and optimistic
4. Hold yourself and others accountable

What defines a leader?

A leader is someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time.

How can I be a leader?

Focus all of your efforts on elevating others. You have to constantly be looking for ways to help others be successful.