Leadership Choices: Slices of the Pie

Written by Jay McDonald on .

Often we hear from others about getting their “fair” share. Sometimes folks are so intent on protecting their turf — their slice of the pie — that they forget why they have that “slice” in the first place. If the size of the pie is fixed, giving a larger slice to one party necessarily means reducing the size of other slices. In any organization, bickering, jealousy and internal strife can sometimes overshadow performance and undermine goals.

If turf wars exist, leaders need to rally their staff to work in harmony to make the pie bigger, so that everyone receives a larger piece. It amazes me that some folks want to fight internally, rather than focus their efforts on the competition… the real entity that needs their full attention. Sometimes I wished we had different uniforms from our competitors, much like sports teams, so that energies were spent on beating the other team, not ours.

Reward The Performers

Recently, a leader told me about giving 2% pay increases to everyone in their organization. What’s wrong with that picture? It could be a sure way to lose the best performers and keep the mediocre ones. Failure to differentiate and reward the top performers will create a culture that brings the entire organization down to the lowest common denominator. The most attractive and employable people have the most opportunity to leave, and if not appreciated, not just by money, but also by recognition, they’ll be the first out the door. A business without a culture of performance differentiation will often be one that does not attract and retain the best and brightest.

Involving others in the slicing of the pie is often productive. When my children were small, debates occurred when cake or pie was to be sliced into portions for each of them. My simple solution was to let one cut the slices and to let the other choose their slice. Believe me, the routine of slicing went from seconds to minutes. God forbid that your brother or sister gets a slice larger than yours. Involving your folks in the division of the team’s pie will not only improve fairness, but you will gain terrific information on how well your values match theirs.

You Can’t Have it All

Our world today makes choices about how to divide the pie every day. The city of Detroit declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013, all because everyone wanted a bigger piece of the pie. Years of corruption and greed led to billions of dollars of debt with no ability to repay it.

We all know the saying: “You can’t have your cake (or pie) and eat it too.” One of my pet peeves is seeing our leaders ignore this fact. They tell voters they can have things for “free” — like health care, food stamps — while ignoring the fact that someone has to pay for these things. If no one can, the whole country will end up like Detroit.

As our government doles out shares of the pie with no concern for who earns it, the good businesses — and the good jobs — will leave the country and go where they are more highly valued, the same way that good employees will leave a company that does not give them what they earn. We’re already seeing the sad beginnings of this migration.

“Pie Chart of Life”

Another interesting concept involving pies is what I call the “Pie Chart of Life.” Simply put, we can imagine our lives, our weeks, our days, our hours as pie charts with the beginning and the end of each encompassing the “pie.” In life, all of us are involved in many activities: business, family, religion, civic activities, recreation, fitness, children’s activities, etc. As outstanding as some people are, it’s virtually impossible to excel at everything. There are tradeoffs. You may be an “A” in family and children’s activities, but just a “B” in business, and perhaps a “C” in civic and church activities. And maybe you neglect your fitness, health, and sleep pretty much altogether resulting in a “D” or “F” in those.

We have choices in how we make the tradeoffs, and those selections affect your success and happiness. Aligning those decisions with the values and things that are most important to you will make the tradeoffs far easier, and will lead you to greater satisfaction with your choices and stronger relationships with those whom you share mutual values.

Your Life as a “Pie” Always Being Baked

What I mean is: Consider your life as a pie in progress. Each of our lives carries a different recipe, and our ingredients change over time. No two people are identical.

In the beginning, our ingredients are parents, teachers, ministers, coaches, neighbors, and friends — they give us the knowledge and values that help make us who we are. As we grow up, we have the opportunity to choose our own ingredients. Our pie is never fully baked until our final breath, so we should try to improve our recipe every single day. Start today: Choose to enrich your ingredients, and choose to be a powerful ingredient for others.

Jay McDonald

With a unique breadth of knowledge earned through decades of hands- on experience, Jay is recognized as a strategic visionary whose high energy, quick wit and straight talk combined with a passion for mentoring others allows him to help executives achieve greater results and enjoy more rewarding personal lives. Connect with Jay McDonald on Google+

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