The Learning Spotlight
Are we entitled?
By John Grubbs
What exactly are we entitled to in life? Can a sense of entitlement create mediocrity in people? Is entitlement a good thing? Dictionary.com defines “entitle” as… to give (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something.
As a parent of two boys, I am always examining and learning (as if I were never a child or a teenager) what really motivates positive activities and what promotes the less value-added ways to burn time in our lives. It is amazing how the purity of childhood is such a micro chasm for life as adults.
Let’s dig a bit deeper. What exactly do I have a right to? Our American heritage is based upon “unalienable rights” or sovereign rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I have a right to live, be free and attempt to be happy. Once we pass these basic rights, it starts to get complicated for most of us.
Why do some wealthy parents decide not to leave money to children and grandchildren? Don’t they have a “right” to the money? Aren’t they entitled? What wisdom do these parents see in not giving children what many consider to be an entitlement? As parents, we can all certainly be guilty of giving too much and creating the “spoiled child” that believes they are entitled to the fruits of their parent’s labor. Yet, how much
is too much or too little?
From labor and effort, we derive appreciation. Without sincere and deliberate effort, do we truly value what we gain? If extreme effort is required to make the gain, our response can be overwhelming as both children and adults. Watching adults win a world championship or gold medal in sports demonstrates the fruit of tremendous labor. The things we treasure the most often require extreme effort to gain.
Conversely, when we derive gain without effort, value begins to diminish sharply. It is only natural to cherish the rare and take the abundant for granted. While giving is a tremendous human condition and something that should never be undervalued, it only derives a small amount of benefit for the receiver. While traveling in a foreign country, I saw almost new “free government” homes virtually destroyed because the tenants had nothing invested to live in
them. Teenagers that invest money in tires are less likely to waste the rubber through immature activities. Great leaders understand an old yet simple truth…it is much better to teach someone to fish rather than to give them a fish.
Application of this basic truth as leaders can promote tremendous growth for those we care about. When we are taught and shown the path toward excellence and invest the work to achieve, we appreciate the outcome. Simply
giving an employee a raise is a very temporary emotional peak. Being entitled to a job based on seniority doesn’t require great performance. Keeping a job because you were hired first also limits excellence and reduces the drive to delivereffort. Being too comfortable doesn’t require improved performance.Creating a meritocracy that rewards excellence will transform the organization and place performance ahead of entitlement. Making a deliberate effort to emphasize effort (leading indicator) will result in more of what you want to accomplish (trailing indicator) for your team. Understanding the difference can transform your organization.
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