Stickman - You are Not Lebron James (or Facebook, or Google) 20151104.png

You are Not Lebron James (or Facebook, or Google)

Lebron James has just become the youngest person in NBA history to score 25,000 points in his career. He is not yet 31 years old. You are not Lebron James. It is an obvious fact. You are not 6’8”. You are not 250 lbs. of muscle. You cannot dribble a basketball while running faster than your neighbor being chased by a bear. You cannot leap 3 and half feet into air and gracefully land with a smile. You haven't spent your entire life optimizing your skills and talents to be the best basketball player in the world. You know this. Yes, you may be about 31 years old. Maybe you weigh 250 lbs. You might even be 6’8”. Even if these things were true, it would be a mistake to directly compare yourself to Lebron. Lebron is fun to watch, but at no point would you fool yourself into believing you can do what he does. Even those players who contend with him for the title of “best basketball player” don’t try to do things the way Lebron does.

Your company is also not Facebook or Google. Your product is probably not used by a majority of the people on the planet. It is unlikely that your company name is used to generically describe your industry. Few people use your company name as a verb or adjective. My guess is that few people use your company in the following sentence. <Your Name Here> is the next Microsoft. This doesn’t mean that you are lesser, just different.

All of this is to point out the following: If you are aware of the fact that you simply cannot be like Lebron James, you should also be aware that you cannot compensate your staff in the same way as Facebook and Google. Fashioning your compensation plans to look like theirs may seem to be a plan for success, but you’d be wrong. It would be kind of like fashioning your food intake to follow that of Lebron James. What works for each of them, will probably be terrible for you.

So, here’s my advice. When you read articles or go to an industry event consider the information provided by these giant, unusual companies with the same feelings as you do watching Lebron James play basketball, (or Chris Botti play trumpet, or Adele sing or <fill is your own prodigal talent here>). It is entertaining, perhaps fascinating and impressive, but it is NOT what your company should be doing.

There are a ton of great articles on this site that discuss the things you should be doing. Clearly define and understand your company’s strategy. Embrace and foster your company’s unique culture. Design and execute your pay programs in a way that always keeps them aligned with your strategy and culture. Stand strong when things are working and adapt quickly when they aren’t. Just a reminder: Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers lost the NBA championship to a team that didn't have single Lebron. Just because you are not “that company” doesn't mean you can't beat them.

Dan Walter is the President and CEO of Performensation and is committed to aligning pay with company strategy and culture. Grab a copy of Dan’s new comprehensive issue brief, Performance-Based Equity Compensation. Dan has also contributed to “Everything You Do in COMPENSATION IS COMMUNICATION”, with Comp Café writers, Ann Bares and Margaret O’Hanlon. And if you’re still not sick of Dan, he has co-authored “The Decision Makers Guide to Equity Compensation”and “Equity Alternatives.” Connect with Dan on LinkedIn. Or, follow him on Twitter at @Performensation and @SayOnPay.

Big Bucks, Tiny Details and Multiple Personalities

Do Worker's Want Shares or Cash? as quoted in the WSJ