Management Lessons From the Road: “Believe THAT”

By Robyn-Jay Bage

Management lessons can be found in the most interesting of places.

Bage febRecently in the WWE Universe, WWE Superstar Roman Reigns soundly won the Royal Rumble. By design, the winner of the match earns the right to a title match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Although WWE is an entertainment company, the wrestling is athletic, requires impressive stamina and strength, and involves dangerously physical maneuvers. Reigns’ achieved victory in a brutal bout.

Over the course of an hour, Reigns survived a steady stream of competitors. He went through 29 contenders and tossed a whopping 12 accomplished wrestlers out of the ring, setting a record for the event. Lest anyone doubt the extent of realism in that fight, Reigns emerged victorious but also bloodied, bruised and visibly exhausted.

His win was not contested. However, having accomplished this incredible feat the Powers that Be denied him the title match he’d believed he’d earned. The result – an angry and mistrustful employee.

Here is the lesson, an application of the Expectancy Theory:

  • If employees don’t believe their effort will result in the level of performance you require.
  • If employees don’t believe the desired level of performance will result in a valued outcome.
  • The outcome is not valued; employees will not be motivated and engaged.

As managers, this means that we must know what our staff value, what they appreciate and desire. Does Paul appreciate a gift card to the local coffee hut or would he prefer a day off?

We must also be clear about our expectations and the standards to which we hold people accountable. Without this information, our employees may be unclear about the amount of effort they need to exert. Moreover, they won’t recognize when they’ve succeeded.

Finally, we need to follow through. If the desired outcome isn’t achieved, despite meeting the target performance standard, the employee may never again believe that his or her effort will lead to something of value. In other words, they may never again believe YOU.

In case you’re wondering, Roman Reigns didn’t quit the WWE. He remained a Superstar. He was given a new standard to meet (another fight to win) and having met it earned—again—his reward, the title match.

But let’s be clear: This is not a common result. Disappointed and disgruntled employees aren’t usually our superstars, even if they started out that way. Only happy and engaged employees are. As Mr. Reigns’ motto aptly advises, “Believe THAT.”


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