The Challenge of Fairness

As the CEO of Wiseberry Real Estate, over the last few weeks I have been involved in the selection of finalists for our annual awards ceremony. This time of the year is the season of awards and recognition, and we are once again faced with the difficult task of recognising a carefully selected group of people for their efforts throughout the year, when there are so many worthy candidates standing before us.

We recently heard in the news that Russia is now running the risk of being banned from the 2016 olympics due to allegations of a state-sponsored doping program. Along the way, there are going to be a lot of athletes who deserve a fair go and have not done the wrong thing, but will be banned at the same time. To me, allocating the right awards to the right people is a lot like giving these sales athletes of ours the recognition that they truly deserve.

The challenge that I face throughout this process is the challenge of fairness. Just like these countries that will bend and break the rules to succeed at the Olympic Games at any cost, sometimes companies feel inclined to do the same. As I go around asking questions and collecting information in order to create a fair and honest evaluation of our candidates, I also have to ensure that I avoid being fooled by those who do their best to sway our decisions at the end of the day. My number one goal throughout this process is to ensure that each award is given to the person who has won it fair and square.

If you choose the wrong person, others will notice. When they visit their office and come into contact with them they will realise that perhaps they’ve been involved in politics rather than an honest decision making process. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with the individual candidates, but is caused by an error in upper management. Some people believe that winning at any cost is more important than acting with integrity and honesty. For this reason, our ability to remain fair is truly tested when selecting the finalists and winners for each award category.

Nobody is perfect, and no winner leads in every single aspect of their work. Quite often we find that the chosen candidate may excel in one area, such as the culture component of the organisation, however may also be lacking in another area, such as marketing. While a candidate may represent 80% of what we are looking for, they may not be performing at their very best within this portion. On the other hand, a person may only meet 30% of the criteria, but their performance may be top notch within that portion.

So how do you pick the winner? Do you choose the person who is performing at their absolute best, even though they’re only meeting one third of the criteria? Or do you choose the person who represents 80% of what you are looking for, even though they are not a top performer? In the end, what it boils down to is a true understanding what a company stands for. At Wiseberry, we stand for culture. Our culture is to treat others the way we would like to be treated ourselves, hereby putting our clients first and acting fairly amongst ourselves even if this creates a short-term cost to us.

With that in mind, we need to judge each finalist while also taking into account the environment in which they work. A candidate may not be excelling in any of their respective duties, however, through deep analysis we may discover that person is working underneath the management of someone who is undisciplined and has values surrounding only themself. The question that now stands is do you penalise this person who is working underneath such a level of management and not allow them to win? Or do you take into account that should upper management improve, this person would perform at a much higher level?

This is the headache we are encountering when selecting the winners for each award. We are hoping that in the end we have done the best we can, not to keep everyone happy but to make sure that we salute the right people as they have bravely been sweating over the last 12 months in order to deliver the highest level of service to our clients.