Treat People Like Dogs

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Usually when someone says, "they treated her like a dog," it's not a good thing. But when was the last time you heard someone say he was going to take his Scottish terrier to classes because, though she's great at catching vermin, she couldn't run as fast as a greyhound? Or complain that his border collie needs remedial help because the dog won't snuggle up on his owner's lap?

Never, right? That's because we appreciate our dogs for what they do well, and build their "job description" around their strengths. We don't expect them to change from a herder to a lapdog to earn extra kibble and the coveted "good dog" award.

Why don't we give people the same consideration? It's pretty obvious we all have different innate skills and talents--for example, I'll never be an architect because my mind just doesn't work that way, but I can build a mean story (at least I think so!). And yet virtually every job evaluation includes a list of things to improve, rather than areas of excellence that should be expanded in that person's job description.

Taking this to the meetings business: There's always been a lot of talk about logistical versus strategic planners, with the "coffee cup counters" often considered to be lower on the career ladder in terms of salary and prestige than those who are more strategically focused.

Of course the latter is vital, but think about the two biggest factors attendees talk about, the two things that, if you get them wrong, nothing else you do will be perceived as right. Yup, that would be room temperature and food--logistics. If the seats are uncomfortable, the room setup not conducive to learning, the lighting harsh, the sound system bad, it doesn't matter how well-designed your meeting is or how compelling the content, people won't be able to focus--or remember the good parts.

Which leaves me with a lot of questions:

Why does the system tend to encourage planners to move into strategic or managerial positions, which may or may not be where their skills and talents lie, if they want to be successful in terms of salary, respect, and all that jazz? On the hotel side, why should good CSMs have to move to sales to make more money? Why don't we hear more stories like the one I wrote about on the MeetingsNet blog last fall, where the Antlers at Vail honored Emiliana "Millie" Barela, who for more than 30 years served as executive housekeeper for the resort, by naming its new boardroom after her?

Instead of requiring people to go from the human equivalent of herding to racing to get ahead, let's work to find ways to get organizations to reward and respect what people do well, regardless of their title or place on the organizational chart.

What can we all do to help the powers-that-be see that, in this case, we want to be treated like dogs?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

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