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The Lessons of Ray Rice

The Baltimore Ravens stopped time with two minutes to go by signing Ray Rice to an extended contract just before the CBA imposed deadline. By doing so, not only did the Ravens lock down their best player (with all due respect to Ray, Joe, Ed, and Haloti), but they also sent a signal to the rest of the organization that they were willing to recognize value and pay what’s due.

This was a gut check. This was a time for the Ravens to make a very public display of who they are and what they value. Sure, they could have kicked the can down the road with the one year deal that would have been triggered by default. At that point, so the argument goes, they could have gotten a full year of production out of Rice and then seen what the market had to offer.

But by taking out their wallet and digging deep, the Ravens showed that they understood what every business should know: Commitment is a two way street. It cannot be expected unless it is demonstrated. 

Too many business owners fail to recognize the importance of their star players until it is too late. They come late to the light, and only then when a competitor makes an offer or the employee herself gives notice. I have spoken to more than a few business owners who feel that recognition of an employee’s importance will result in high salary demands and a loss of employer leverage in contract discussions.

To this I say: “maybe.” I’m not saying that can’t happen. Most often, however, the employees appreciate the recognition. More importantly, employees who feel appreciated want to stay and strive to justify the expression of confidence.

To be sure, the heightened commitment and performance of the subject employee gained from pre-emptive recognition is critical. The larger lesson, however, was first expressed by Sun Tzu in The Art of War in 600 B.C.: “Management of many is the same as management of few. It is a matter of organization.” The ripple effect of recognition throughout an organization – provided the recognition is granted for the right reasons – in incalculable.

The Ravens sent a clear message to everyone in their organization and around the league that they are serious about winning, they recognize performance, and they won’t shy away from commitment.

My advice: make it your business to ensure that your people are saying the same about you.

Register for our Drink ‘N Think on July 18, 2012 at 5pm on Best Employment Practices!