Build Engagement With Skin In The Game

I recently sat next to well-dressed, articulate, successful guy on an airplane. He was an oral surgeon who had emigrated from India to England and then later to the United States. While the work required for re certification in his profession was immense as was building a practice several times, he had “made it.” He started our conversation, however, by telling me that when he was young, everything was handed to him and he later had to painfully learn the value of money and what went into achieving it. He was grateful that he had escaped his sense of entitlement.

How hard is it to figure out what will happen when you never make a kid pick up his toys, give someone 2 cent per liter gas (brought to you by the brilliant government of Venezuela), or let them “earn” a paycheck with little or no work requirements? In the workplace, you turn what could be a productive, happy, successful worker (whether they are on the front line or the executive suite) into a drain on the income statement, their coworkers, the shareholders and society. One bad job can turn someone into a slacker for life. We’ve all seen them.

Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur or a commission-only sales rep, but everyone should understand that they have skin in the game and receive the benefit (yes, benefit!) of feeling pain when they underperform as well as joy and reward when they add value. This isn’t only good business, this is a blessing!

I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to loose money in a few investments without the government protecting me from myself. I am grateful that I have to earn my own way. I am lucky to have grown up in a family and several tough work environments where I was expected to add value and allowed to have “skin in the game.”

Risk, reward, accountability (with support!) and autonomy grow individuals, teams, companies and economies, not coddling.

As a leader, how can you make sure that your teammates have skin in the game? What obligations do you have to accomplish this?

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