If we base our systems of reward only on results, which most of us do, then Gollum is the actual hero of the story.
Yes, Frodo volunteered to risk his life and suffer the journey to take the ring to Mount Doom. Yes, he suffered, wrestled with Sauron and the ring, and made tough choices.
And yes Sam looked after him along the way and then carried him up that last part of the mountain.
But Frodo didn’t actually destroy the ring.
He’s the one that actually got the ring into the lava.
So he’s the hero of the story, right?
He’s the one that saved middle earth.
He’s the one that got results.
Sounds so wrong, doesn’t it?
So why do we do this at work?
We are all about company values, teamwork, how we do things until we get a hit on our OKRS and quarterly results.
Then we go back to making heroes out of the people who sacrifice everything to hit that specific number by that specific date. (which in essence is just a best guess).
Making Gollum the hero is what we do with our OKRs and bonus structures.
Whoever gets the result gets the reward. No matter how they did it.
I know I’m not the only wants to have seen this in the workplace.
Someone takes shortcuts that create long-term problems, but let us hit this quarter’s target.
A team works on an improvement plan for months, and then there’s a change in management and the new person gets the credit.
Or even more prevalent: people working hard making steady progress, but they don’t hit the arbitrarily defined date. So they are ignored.
But someone else manages to get a result and they are the hero.
Yes, results matter. Or course they do. But if we only focus on the quarterly results, and not the progress being made over time, then we’ll end up with a bunch of Gollums in charge, being promoted for getting results.
Oops, we already do.
Ok, that’s ending on a dark note and I don’t want to leave it there.
Just because our current system is still heavily operating this way, doesn’t mean it has to continue.
The world is changing, and we can be part of the change.
This is part of my Thought Piece Series where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to connect? Click here