Why Great Leaders Reward Behaviors Not Results

Why Great Leaders Reward Behaviors Not Results

John Eades 21/06/2020 3
Why Great Leaders Reward Behaviors Not Results

We’ve all heard the saying “the results speak for themselves,”  but do they really?

The recent ESPN documentary, Long Gone Summer, highlights the infamous 1998 baseball season where Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’s home run record. If you were McGwire’s baseball manager in 98’ and only looked at the results, you give nothing except praise and recognition to McGwire. 

We now know McGwire was using performance-enhancing drugs during the season. McGwire’s reputation was tarnished and he is proof that: 

"Leaders who solely reward people based on results are using the wrong formula for long-term success." 

When studying what the best leaders do for Building the Best, I found a formula leaders leverage to get consistently high results from themselves and their people. It’s is called The Route to Results: High standards produce behaviors. Those behaviors, when practiced repeatedly, become a habit, and those habits lead to results.

Why Great Leaders Reward Behaviors Not Results

The Route to Results is especially important when it comes to rewards and recognition and ensuring their team gets the results the right way. 

Goodhart’s law 

Goodhart’s law states that “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”  In a recent video, Jason Feifer, the Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine and host of the Pessimists Archive Podcast, highlighted why Goodhart’s Law should be used properly by leaders. 


Feifer highlights exactly why the best leaders shouldn’t reward the results and instead should reward behaviors.  

The Challenge with Remote Work

Rewarding behavior isn’t easy because the vast majority of teams and businesses are run and measured based on their current results.  While this makes sense, it also creates an arbitrary system for leaders to demand results by a certain time.  

When leading a remote team, rewarding behaviors becomes even more challenging.  When a leader and a team member are physically around each other, its easier to observe and encourage the correct behaviors and habits.  In a remote work setting, the major measurements are outcomes and results. However, remote work doesn’t exempt people from cutting corners to get short-term results in a way they will cost the team in the long run. 

Reward the Extra Step 

Jeff is a current sales manager. Since his team now works remotely instead of just rewarding, recognizing, and celebrating when a team member closes a sale, he looks inside the CRM and shares an “extra step” the salesperson took with the entire team. By doing so, he reinforces the behaviors requires to win the sale versus the sale itself. 

If you are in a position of leadership with a remote team, reward, recognize and celebrate the behaviors and habits that lead to results, not the results themselves.  


In the final scenes of Long Gone Summer, Mark McGwire said, “I believe I was put on this earth to hit home runs, but I also believe I was put on this earth to pass on knowledge. Not many people have been in the position to be on the top like I was, but I was also on the bottom. I don’t think you can get to the top without scratching the surface of the bottom floor.”

Not only did McGwire admit his use of Performance Enhancing drugs but now he is passing on knowledge to help us be better performers and leaders. For that, we should be grateful.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is currently scheduling virtual workshops and keynotes. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

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  • Chris Gaunt

    Brilliant piece !

  • Adrian Bevan

    Great leaders display genuine emotions and know how to motivate their employees.

  • Kelly Hovell

    This is the perfect opportunity for leaders to reflect about their managerial style !

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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