You deserve what you get

By Tom Collins

I am the youngest of four boys and one of the my clearest recollections of my childhood is my dear mother repeatedly saying to me “Well, you deserve what you get!” when I would go moaning to her after one of my brothers lost patience with my taunting and gave me a clip behind the ear.

Little did any of us know, or remotely care at the time,  that this sound advice would underpin my management philosophy in later life!


From a management perspective I was reminded of the importance of this “deserve what you get”, “reap what you sow” advice in a recent blog post by S.Chris Edmonds entitled “You get what you reward (or tolerate)“. In the post Chris argues that leaders who disapprove of the behaviour of their staff only have themselves to blame. One should be extremely clear about the behavioural boundaries you will tolerate and continually model desirable behaviour.

In essence it is all about leading by example – or to be more precise, leading by good example.  Reams of papers have been written about this and I don’t intend to try to imitate any of the fine writers I have come across on the subject but simply add to the discussion from a not-for-profit perspective.

As a leaders of a not -for-profit your number one priority is to embody and live the mission and values of the organisation.

To keep myself in check, I developed a personal CEO Self-Assessment which I would pullout an mull over every 6 months or so. I would ask myself a whole range of questions such as:

How do my actions reflect the values of the organisation?

Do I consistently show respect and maintain the dignity of our organisation’s clients?

Do I place cause before cash?

Do I balance my work and family appropriately? etc.

During this self analysis process I tried to be seriously objective if not  fairly hard on myself (well as much as one’s ego would allow).

One of the interesting things I found from this process was that in most cases where I marked myself down we also had a negative organisational issue in that area. I recall vividly on one occasion within weeks of identifying an aspect of my own leadership that needed improving receiving  a complaint from a stakeholder group  regarding one of my direct reports. The complaint related to the exact behaviour I was trying to improve. This issue spun off into a number of other little nasties and consumed a great deal of my time before it was resolved. However, at the end of the day I had to truthfully say to myself:

“Tom, you deserved what you got!” 

About the author: Tom Collins is a Cause and Effective Associate ( He has previously held CEO positions in the not for profit sector and is currently a member of a number of nfp boards.

Image: 123rf

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