Website design By BotEap.comA few years ago, I taught a major customer service training program for a large company in the Midwest.

Website design By BotEap.comWhen the going got tough, as it always seems to when you’re trying to introduce sweeping changes to hundreds of workers, one of my contacts at the company, exasperated, asked:

Website design By“Why don’t you give us an award and go?”

Website design By BotEap.comIt appears that the very service unit you were struggling to fix was unfortunate enough to have received a “Best in Service” award from an industry polling firm the year before.

Website design By BotEap.comFrom that point on, many of the workers were simply unteachable. They thought they knew everything, that they were already wonderful, and that they really couldn’t move on. Also, they didn’t want to get better at what they did for a living.

Website design By BotEap.comAt my own expense, I flew to New England to interview the president of the company that awarded the award to that faulty piece of equipment. Along with some of his key partners, we had lunch and in a very relaxed moment I asked him, “What would happen if your company stopped giving out customer service awards?”

Website design By BotEap.comHe looked at me to check my sanity and then said, barely suppressing a laugh, “Why would we go bankrupt?”

Website design By BotEap.comHe had it, and he knew it.

Website design By BotEap.comThen I asked, “So you really are in the AWARDS business even more than you are in the survey research business, right?”

Website design By BotEap.comKnowing he was cornered, he forced a smile and admitted, “I guess we are.”

Website design By BotEap.comI offer this elaborate tale to ask you a question, especially if you own or belong to a martial arts dojo.

Website design By BotEap.comAre you in the martial arts boot camp or in the “belt business”? And what would happen if you decided to eliminate the different ranks of belts, which go in most cases from white to black?

Website design By BotEap.comWould you go bankrupt too?

Website design By BotEap.comI happen to think that the promotion belt system, while extremely popular in the United States and in many countries, is fundamentally flawed and also leads people to aim for the award rather than the underlying abilities that awards, in this case the belts, means.

Website design By BotEap.comThese are not sour grapes. After eight arduous and sacrificial years, I obtained my black belt in kenpo karate.

Website design By BotEap.comBut many aspects of the chase for the belt backfired, and if I had to do it over again, I doubt I’d join a dojo that uses this recognition and advancement system. As I noted in a recent article:

Website design By“The belts make the trainee impatient and greedy for the next promotion, for acquiring the next color in the martial arts rainbow. The belts create competition among peers to become the first to try for the next higher level, causing a certain amount of conflict, accusations of favoritism or subservience, and the occasional injury as contestants compete for increasingly distinguished and relatively unpopulated careers up the status ladder.

Website design By“You may find it interesting to note, in the last paragraph I alluded to, possibly six of The Seven Deadly Sins, articulated in the Bible and by various theologians through time, including Pope Saint Gregory and Buddha. These are vices that the wise I have said that mortals are wise to avoid indulging: Pride, Greed, Envy, Anger/Rage Lust, Gluttony and Sloth Makes you wonder if the Enlightened One would feel comfortable meditating under the bodhi tree with a martial arts sash tied around from your waist!”

Website design By BotEap.comPerhaps getting rid of the belt system would leave only students who really want to learn and teachers who really want to teach. Instead of focusing inordinately on the symbols of achievement, perhaps we could dedicate ourselves to the real thing.

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