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New Art Of War: Boost Morale Through Proper Compensation

New Art Of War: Boost Morale Through Proper Compensation

PARK Jae-Hee

Jan. 4, 2008


Hello, I am Jae-Hee Park on The New Art of War.

Endless repetition of the same work often discourages workers and leads them to lose the enthusiasm they had in the beginning. Likewise, in war, the morale and willingness of soldiers can sputter and eventually fail. Under these circumstances, what can a leader do to boost morale and motivate soldiers for battle? As The Art of War famously states, “If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can survive hundreds of battles without danger.” This suggests that all leaders should understand what makes their subordinates want to work hard. A CEO should analyze and learn what underpins employees’ performance. Everybody has different goals and objectives. Some employees may look for status, while others may be more motivated by compensation. Management can help employees be satisfied by supplying them with what they need to do.

Sun Tzu was a general of the State of Wu during the ancient Spring and Autumn period. After much study and consideration of the main factors that move armies in war, he arrived at two reasons: money and animosity. “Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.” In today’s business world, this can be interpreted as providing incentives and imbuing the troops with competitive spirit. Sun Tzu’s discussion of compensation differs substantially from other organizational theories of his time which only emphasized loyalty.

Mencius on the other hand believed there are two types of people. There are people who are loyal regardless of compensation and there are others whose loyalty depends on remuneration.

He went on to write, “Some people remain loyal even without materialistic compensation while others do not stay loyal without such compensation.”

Mencius believed that demanding loyalty without proper compensation is something leaders should avoid. To him, those who demand loyalty without compensation and inflict severe punishment on subordinates are not fit to be a ruler. In this light, employee training that only demands dedication to the company is bound to be ineffectual. A fair and proper compensation scheme will help subordinates to trust managers. Endless stories of how hard managers worked when they were themselves fresh recruits are likely to bore employees and make them cynical about doing their jobs.

No soldier would put his life on the line for a leader who fails to consider the individual aspirations of his soldiers. Sun Tzu wrote: “Therefore in chariot fighting, when ten or more chariots have been taken, those should be rewarded who took the first.” Unlike other vague mentions of awards, Sun Tzu specifically states what will be given as an award and how. Clearly stated compensation is much more effective in enticing subordinates to work harder.

The Art of War focuses on how to maximize an army’s capabilities by boosting soldier’s morale. So how do you keep your organization competitive? Do you just demand dedication without anything in return? Remember, loyalty is something that you cannot simply squeeze out of your employees by force.

This has been a lecture on The New Art of War by Jae-Hee Park.

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