27 Oct Rewards
Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. This was controversial because he’s so new in his position. It’s a bit like giving the Academy Award to the actor before he’s played the role. But he won not so much for what he’s done as for what he’s trying to do. The decision makers claimed they wanted to encourage his behavior.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to encourage good behavior – from my employees, my kids and, perhaps especially, my dog. Discouraging bad behavior seems so much easier. You can put employees on probation. You can ground your kids. And you can put your dog out. Negative consequences will eventually stop negative behaviors. But are positive consequences as effective at encouraging positive behaviors?
If I give my dog a bone when he DOESN’T have an accident in the conference room, will he eventually stop? I think not. (In fact, I have “piles” of evidence that say he won’t).
Should I give my employees awards to encourage good behaviors? In our industry, awards are given for exceptional ideas, strategies, design, writing and production. But there really isn’t an award for “Best Attitude,” “Funniest” or “Most Pleasant to Work With.” I submit that those things are as important as talent when it comes to our day-to-day working environment.
Accolades can be effective. Most every company recognizes employees who go “above and beyond” in their weekly staff meetings. And we’ve all been named “Employee of the Month” at some point or other.
Perks help, too. At WilsonMcGuire Creative, we’ve worked out a system with 3 levels of rewards (from $5 Starbucks Gift Cards to $25 Barnes&Noble Gift Cards to a $100 dinner at local restaurant). Each employee can reward a co-worker with one of these at his or her discretion when he thinks that coworker has done something exceptionally well. It’s in its infancy, but it seems to encourage teamwork.
Money is a master motivator.
My son Dalton is a social animal – forever going to movies, dinners and parties with his friends. As such, he suffers from a constant lack of funds and, because he plays soccer, he has no time for a job. When his grades began to slide his sophomore year, it didn’t worry him much. I, on the other hand, imagined driving past the hallowed campuses of Duke, N.C. State and Carolina to tour the local community colleges. So I broke down and told him I’d pay him for every A on his report card. If, however, he made a C or lower, he’d have to pay me.
He made 5 out of 7 A’s that semester. And he’s been keeping his grades up ever since. Money is an excellent motivator. But I think the mother of all motivators is still a negative – fear.
I heard a story of a business owner who wanted to encourage his employees to be more creative. He felt they were in a rut and no longer offered fresh thinking. One morning, he was so frustrated he announced that he would fire the next person he saw even park his or her car the same way.
When he arrived to work the next morning, he was pleased to see that not a car was parked between the lines. They were parked sideways, diagonally, on the curb, on the grass, everywhere but between the parallel lines. It was total parking chaos motivated entirely by fear.
So if you don’t want to work in an environment of fear and you don’t have much money in these recessionary times, how do you encourage positive behavior? I’ve got an award waiting for the person who can answer this.