Winner takes it all...

Stefan Stern
13 October 2014

If you don’t like photos of grinning managers in dinner jackets and party frocks, look away now. This issue of SM gives you a chance to read up on the winners of the recent CIPS Supply Management awards. There are at least two reasons to do this. Either you didn’t win this year and would like to find out what the winners got right. Or you did win, in which case you can enjoy the ego trip of reading about how clever you are.

These awards ceremonies are usually quite a jolly (if lengthy) night out for teams who have worked hard all year. They have earned it. If I am a little ambivalent about these events it is probably because my dad’s splendid old DJ, which used to be so big on me, is now a very tight and at times impossible fit. How can this be? It is a complete mystery.

What you discover at these awards evenings is that people really like to win prizes. Recognition is good: good for your career, and good for your feelings of self-esteem. It’s a bit like pay and reward: fairness is important, but also that sense of not being left behind, and having your work properly acknowledged. The award says: you did this, it was good – in fact it was the best piece of work we have seen in this area. Whether it is school sports day or the Oscars, we all like having our name read out and winning a round of applause.

Work can’t just be drudgery, all stick and no carrot. There is a time to step back, admire the good things you have done and invite others to admire them too.

Whoever it was who first said that incentives matter definitely had a point. And what do points make… prizes!

Work-life balance

Of course, in the pursuit of life’s big prizes we can mix up our priorities a bit. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to one of the world’s most powerful financiers, Mohamed El-Erian, formerly chief executive of the giant US fund manager Pimco.

I say former, because in January this year El-Erian announced he would be stepping down. There was much speculation as to why he had gone. But he has only now explained, in an interview with Worth magazine, one of the main reasons he did so. And it had to do with something his daughter had done.

He had been having a bit of a row with her at home one day over her behaviour. At which point she disappeared into her room and came out with a list of 22 important events he had failed to attend because of his work commitments – first days at school, parent evenings and sports matches and so on.

“As much as I could rationalise it – as I had rationalised it – my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack,” El-Erian said. “The imbalance was hurting my very special relationship with my daughter. ”

Now, before it was too late, El-Erian has stepped away from his mega job to rebuild relationships at home. He is an example to us all. Give that man a prize.

☛ Stefan Stern is visiting professor of management practice at Cass Business School

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