Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Gold Star Line

It was a while back, in my last company, that I had a conversation with someone regarding gold stars in organizations. I was recalling the topic this week..

As a kid, you submit papers to school and get a little gold star on your page. Or a little blue star. Or red star. You love those stars. Over time, those stars become grades, but the effect is the same. You get small awards, little prizes, and general acts of recognition. It brings you happiness. Gold stars in new forms. I recall our university's automated grade reporting system (at the time, innovatively automated-phone-line-based), would say "Congratulations!" when you got a 4.0. You could listen to that thing 100 times without getting bored.

As a manager, you have a box of gold stars to give. Sometimes they are truly awards - and other times they are just "AttaBoys" .. but you have them.

But, as an employee... there's a line. It's not a line anyone tells you about. That line is the Gold Star Line. Below the line, you get your gold stars. If you do well, y ou get them on a regular cadence. If not, they are an unexpected treat.

Above the line, you don't get gold stars. They just.. sort of.. stop. Why? Because you're expected to succeed. You're expected to know when you've succeeded. You might get a handshake or a pat on the back, but at some level, success was anticipated. You're the leader. You lead. You don't get a gold star because it is your job to achieve them consistently. My most gold-starry emails I've received lately have congratulated the team or emphasized the import of the success. Not "You rock!" (there are some exceptions)

Here's the secret: You'll miss them. Everyone does. If you question it, pull a gold star out of your pocket and give it to someone SUPER senior. They'll eat it up. We all love them.

So, here's your warning. If you're finding yourself longing for a paper to put on the fridge, and it isn't forthcoming... maybe you've crossed the Gold Star Line. Make your own certificate. And tape it on your fridge.


PD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Capt. BS said...

One man's gold star is another man's pancake-on-top-of-a-rabbit: