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My team has been nominated for an innovation award, and I can only take 5 people with me. The issue is that there were 10 people involved, and I'm unsure how I should describe the problem to my team so that none of them get offended or feel under-valued if they aren't invited.

Note: The venue is small, and all teams are limited to bring 6 people only.

  • @hd Do you have any feeling that some people on the team deserve the recognition more than others? – Lumberjack Oct 20 '16 at 20:04
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    @Lumberjack: Here be dragons – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 20 '16 at 22:48
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    Local event? Travel involved? Daytime event? Nighttime? Company paying for travel, lodging, etc? On a Wednesday? Friday? Lots of details missing that will determine how many WANT to go and how many CAN go... I'd jump at a company provided ticket out Thursday and one day of hotel covered - I'd pay for a couple extra days of hotel myself and enjoy a partially paid for vacation. I don't think I'd do the same if it was local and it took up more than the normal workday. – WernerCD Oct 20 '16 at 23:59
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First of all, objectively present the situation to your team:

Guys, we have been nominated for an innovation award, however only 6 of us, myself included, can attend this event.

Next, tell them when and where the event is taking place, and ask who is interested in attending:

The event is taking place at Restaurant X, on October Y, at Z PM. Who is interested in going?

Finally, if more people want to go than there are tickets, hold a lottery draw.

Here comes the important bit, however: treat the "losers" to some sort of special treat. Maybe lunch out on the day where the rest of you guys are attending the event. Or maybe organize a really nice team event for everyone to attend (however, you should still make sure that the people being left behind get a little something extra).

There's nothing worse than hearing the people who went talking about how great the food/drinks/atmosphere were, when you yourself were excluded. However, give the team their own bonding event to talk about, and that animosity will not build up.

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    Since you seem to have a strong team here, I would hang onto this information for the next one :) People who couldn't go this time should have first priority for the next one, if/when there's another award opportunity – cdkMoose Oct 20 '16 at 16:15
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    Also with a team of 10 I wouldn't be surprised if a few of them would prefer not going to this anyways. – enderland Oct 20 '16 at 16:52
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    Same. "Nah, I'm not that fussed, but have fun" is likely from more than a couple. If from enough, problem solved. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 20 '16 at 22:49
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    As I understood the question, it should be "I can only take five of you" instead of "six of us", the latter one implying that @hd. is subject to selection, too. – Alexander Kosubek Oct 21 '16 at 7:20
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    @Lightness Races in Orbit: And even possible that some would regard being required to go as a form of punishment - at least if I'm on the team :-) – jamesqf Oct 21 '16 at 18:22
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I am tempted to treat this event as a sales call and bring the five most articulate individuals on the team. After all, the product is the star and someone has to showcase and advocate for the product.

I'd say, let the product and the event define who is going to be on the team. For example, if it is important that the technical features of the product be thoroughly understood, you might want the strongest technical person on the team to come. I'd say that that there are some very strong technical contributors who are simply not verbal enough to push the product and do not have the temperament to push the product. You might decide that you need to round up a natural born shmoozer to balance your team - and if your team does not have one, you might have to beg, borrow or steal one from another team :)

Look at the event as a work session not as a reward for a job well done i.e. nobody is going there for a good time having had by all. Like it or not, the 5 people on your team represent the company and I think your company wants the best possible representation. Keep in mind that the 5 people in your team will define the product and the company in the eyes of others. In that context, you might want to make sure that the team puts its best foot forward.

A competitive product award event is no place to let your guard down, even if the venue is Hawaii.

  1. If it's an external event (thanks, sleske for your comment!), assume that there will be product reviewers from the press and others in attendance and assume that the product is going to get written up. I'd say, even if the product is not getting an award, the fact that the product gets written up in the press counts for a lot. If the product wins in some fashion at a competitive review staged at the event, that makes your team trip worthwhile and your sales and marketing people will be ecstatic.

  2. If it's an internal event, assume that senior management will be in attendance and presumably, senior management is a tougher constituency than most external constituencies including the customers. In addition, senior management has the power to route resources your way for whatever purposes that serve you including scaling the product. If you can convince them. There may be internal press in attendance, which you can treat as a practice run when you run into the external press.

No rest for the wicked :)

  • Some great points (+1) thanks, though wouldn't this dishearten those who did not go if I did it this way? I don't want anyone to feel undervalued – hd. Oct 20 '16 at 16:29
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    @hd - We all have strengths and weaknesses. It's officially an award ceremony - I take it, a competitive award ceremony - and you simply have to bring forward the people who will most effectively advocate for the product. Remember, it's the product that's getting the award and is having all the fun not necessarily the individuals who show up at the award ceremony. I'll give an example: I am very strong technically but you wouldn't want to bring me to a marketing event, except under tight supervision. Emphasize: 1. it's a working session; 2. team: don't take it personally if you are not going. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 20 '16 at 16:36
  • This answer seems to assume that it is an external event, i.e. press and possibly competitors attending. However, it might also be a company-internal ceremony (OP did not tell). You might add that as a qualification. Still, good answer! – sleske Oct 21 '16 at 9:44

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