Balancing Performance and Rewards
Balancing Performance and Rewards

Balancing Performance and Rewards

Take one for the team!

It is for the greater good.

What’s in it for me?

I deserve more!

Sometimes I think too much – but this time, I experimented on unknowing individuals to try and understand my thoughts a little better. The topic swirling in my head relates to employing staff with benefits and attempting to reach a certain goal.

I have always believed any individual should prove their worth based on their outputs and actions – and not demand their worth based on their own perceptions. 

When we set goals for an organisation or venture into a new business, it implies that we will all work together as a team to achieve a positive outcome.

A positive outcome means that something has been achieved and that the general sentiment is that it was a positive experience for all.

Everybody gets paid (including bonuses, if the venture was profitable). Everybody feels a sense of achievement and receives praise for a job well done.

It can be compared to almost any goal we set in life. No one climbs Mt Everest and smiles all the way to the top!

So why is it that when we work for organisations, we look for personal gains before we have even started? Businesses uphold values to ensure that the organisation has a specific culture and that everybody enjoys a sense of belonging.

During the employment process, most of us get a feeling of wanting to fit in or not. Or are you just looking for money and benefits?

I get the feeling that people are happy to climb Mt Everest with me – but they let me know that they can climb, very well. Everyone wants to climb with them and a good guide, sleeping bag and self-catering on the journey alone will not do.

They only want to hike when the sun shines; someone must make their food and they want a queen-size mattress (with an electric blanket) to make the journey more comfortable.

I am sure that, with benefits like that, we will smile all the way to the summit – but would reaching the summit mean as much? Surely not?

My Social Experiment 

With all of the above in mind, I decided to enter a squash team into our local clubs’ season league.

The league consists of 21 teams who all play 5-team members against each other for points. After playing all of the teams, the team with the most points, wins.

Step 1 - Recruitment 

I needed five (5) strong players – but more importantly, I needed five players with a positive demeanor and who are committed to winning and playing for the full term. Note: Strong players = not the best.

I looked for positive people who were committed and wanted to win. I would pay their league fees for the season – a basic that would be covered for any sponsored team. A job like any other – no benefits promised. No bags, rackets, branded clothes, nothing.

Step 2 – Branding the Team  

I thought about approaching a sponsor but knowing a little about marketing, I knew that I would be confronted with requests for demographics and brand exposure benefits. Essentially selling “the win” before we had even started.

Tough sell.

So, I decided to invest and target the returns over the season.

I did, however, ask if I can use the company name as our team’s name, which was an easy sell. “It costs you nothing; I just want to use the name.”

So, free exposure. Essentially, putting something in before taking something out. Easy sell.

Step 3 – Playing the Game 

Round 1: It goes well; we take pole position!

Round 2,3,4: We win but not strongly.

We strategise, motivate and concentrate on what it would take to get us back to top of the log.

Every week we plan our next game(s). Each week, we moved players around to target the highest score.

Moving players meant that no player could tally up a big enough score to take a prize for the most points played in a certain position.

Everyone knew that the focus was on team points and not individual gains or praise.

Our strategy paid off and by round 6, we were back to second position (up from seventh).

Step 4 – Acknowledging the Efforts

Rounds 8 and 9 saw us closing the score gap and gaining on the top team.

I engaged with Sintrex and shared the statistics and results. We were now the second strongest team with many eyes on us.

How about a branded t-shirt? Again, easy sell. We had achieved an interim milestone that deserved recognition and praise.

Other teams started the season with shiny branded shirts and sometimes did not wear them anymore. Whereas we displayed the brand with a new sense of pride, halfway through the season.

Round 12: We take the lead by a mere 1.5 points:

Step 5 – Holding Course and Facing the Challenges

Taking top spot puts all sorts of other pressures on people – but we stuck to our strategy and kept communicating and motivating each other.

In Round 15, we faced an unexpected curve ball. Our opponents for the evening had hired a reserve player to stand in for one of their players who was unable to play.

This change was not communicated and was therefore totally unexpected.

The reserve player turned out to be a pro: one of the SA national squad players.

Games are played to 11 and our top player managed only 6 points out of 33. He received a hiding!

Yes, this was a setback – but it was also motivation for us to do even better, to help carry the loss of one of our teammates.

Round 15 results:

Another challenge still facing us was the team in second place: the Scorpions. We would play them in the second last round and in all aspects, they were the stronger team.

We had to deal with players’ confidence levels, as well as their beliefs in themselves and their ability to contribute towards the team.

We could not give up, nor resign to the fact that we would, in all probability, lose against them.

Even if we lost, the points differential between the two teams would determine how many more points we would need in the last round to win the league.

We went into Round 20, nervous and unsure but with fight and determination.

We lost. The Scorpions were the better team in this battle but we stuck to our strategy and managed only a three points differential!

Step 6 – The Final Push 

In the second last round, we were still ahead by nine points. This meant that if Scorpions took full points in the final round (15), we would only need seven (7) points to beat them.

With this, I approached Sintrex again: prompting a reward, a bonus, a return on investment.

What could Sintrex gain from this marketing exposure and what is its worth in rand value? And if we lose, do we still expect a reward?

No, nobody was expecting anything. I negotiated a lunch for all the team members – but only if we won.

The team was excited. Reward for making a target!


If we look at the player scores, not one of our players received an award for individual performance.

We were not the best individually but we were the best together!

Team aspects aside: relate this back to who you are within your organisation and what your contribution is.

You might not be the best but commit to working for the best – and you prove your worth and the benefits that follow.

Stay focused, positive, have fun, lean on your team on the bad days.

Carry a teammate on their hard days, target small wins and be happy with your achievements.

Emile Biagio


Last modified on Tuesday, 01 November 2022 11:32
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