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The Carrot or the Stick ?

Posted 17 June 2013

There are three key elements to high performance within a work team.  The Direction they are shown, the Skills they possess, and the Motivation they have in their work.

Direction and Skills are typically rational, black-and-white issues … they’re either there or they’re not, and if they’re not you can simply do something about it (i.e. communicate and train).

Motivation is not by any means that simple.  People are motivated in many different ways, and individuals’ motivations change according to their own personal, external and internal circumstances.  So is it a wonder that Motivation and Morale is one of the biggest headaches employers face when it comes to driving performance.

This is a topic I will return to in other Blog posts, and it is not one that is easily covered in a couple of paragraphs.  However let’s kick off with a simple rule of thumb…

One fact is that some people are motivated by moving TOWARDS pleasure, while some others are motivated by moving AWAY FROM pain.  So, as a simple example, the “Away-From” salesperson who is faced with not making her mortgage payment this month because she’s short on commission will go out of her way to make those sales between now and the end of the month to make sure she isn’t under threat of eviction or foreclosure.  The “Towards” salesperson will get up on the 1st of the month and power straight into full gear, because she is looking to the 5-star 3 week Caribbean holiday she is planning for next winter.

Understanding whether someone is an Away-From or towards person helps you the employer understand what approach is going to work best … the carrot or the stick.  So let’s start with you … what motivates you – the moving away from pain, or the moving towards pleasure?  Are you driven by the desire to succeed or by the fear of failure ?  There’s no good or bad answer to this one, it is only understanding that matters – because only through that understanding can you come up with the rewards and incentives you need to operate at peak performance.