Recently, I’ve been rethinking the way we, as owners, look at rewards and consequences to get our employees to:

  1. Do something we want them to start doing.
  2. Continue doing something we like.
  3. Stop doing something that we don’t like.

The tried and true method is a system of “carrots and sticks”. If you do well, you get a carrot. If you do badly, you get the stick.

Most times the carrot can come in the form of a bonus, a bump in pay, time off or a job promotion. At my old shop, we left you alone. That was a big carrot!

Sticks typically come in the form of verbal reprimand, a written reprimand, a suspension or termination. Truth be told. Carrots and sticks as a reward and consequence system can and will work.


Playing fair

Let’s take this a little further. I’ve preached through the years that having objective standards, clear communicated goals, known and practiced policies and procedures for everyone at the company is the best path for being fair. And as people we all want to feel we’ve been treated fairly whether we’re getting a carrot or the stick as a reward or as a consequence.

Here’s what I typically hear from new clients when we first start working together, “I’ve got to motivate them.” And I share with them, “You can’t motivate me to do anything. What you can do is find a series of rewards and consequences that motivate me to either get onboard or to make my exit. Either way, that’s a good thing for all concerned.”

Let’s face it you can get anyone to climb a mountain by hitting them with a big enough stick. The problem is when you stop hitting them they’ll be flying down the mountain twice as fast as they climbed it. The goal must become to have WAY more carrots than sticks. This encourages staff to want to climb the mountain and when they’ve reached the top to anxiously await the next mountain you want to climb together.

This does work. It worked at my company and it’s working at many companies I’ve worked with through the years and today.

But, I also have come to better understand that if I can teach you to provide the “Why they should want to climb and keep climbing,” things go a lot better and the results have farther long-term power. The days of saying, “Do it. It’s your job” are long gone.


Creating a winning team

People today want to know that their work means something and that they’re building a future for themselves with your company. We, as people, all want to belong to something and most of all we want to belong to a winning team. Even those employees you perceive as being removed or feeling above it all and wanting to sit it out on the sidelines are just fearful of failing and being a disappointment.

These people will provide you the greatest chance to be a leader. It’s your job to let them know, “Change is difficult if you’re fearful of failure. That’s why we’re going to work together to give you all the tools and training, so not only will we not fail, we’re all going to win.”

Speaking to next level motivation or just another way to look at motivation beyond carrots and sticks, I was watching an online video on the website TED Talks.

The author, Simon Sinek, whose book I read awhile back called “Start with Why,” was speaking to an audience about what he felt was the fallacy of “If you do this, you get that”:

  1. It works and doesn’t work.
  2. People need to know why first.
  3. Sole reliance on carrots and sticks can have the adverse effect of stunting creativity when it comes to problem solving.
  4. Good way to the goal is simple rules, easy goal with a narrow focus.

As far as #4 above, it speaks to having known and practiced policies and procedures that come into play about 80% of the time and letting the 20% go. Know that even as adults, we tend to act like kids. We want to know what happens in a good way if I do and what happens in a bad way if I don’t.


Being a Contractor is Tough!

Well, it doesn’t have to be…but don’t take my word for it. Here’s what just one client had to say:

“Why is running a commercial and residential service and install business so hard? Why can't employees do what I need them to do? After all, it's just common sense…isn’t it?

Truth is I love being in business. I'm excited to design solutions to the problem and acting on these solutions. All great stuff until I'm faced with the frustrations of day-to-day business.

With the work our company has done with Al, I came back from a vacation and the GREAT  thing I found was that the team had kept the progress of what we are doing going forward. It is as if I was still there, boy this is really nice! Progress was made without me being there to push. Also speaking to the CSRs, the busy days went really smooth[ly]…a lot better than in the past. Better customer satisfaction and the employees are working more efficiently. Everyone sees the improvement and likes it!”

Dave Dalpe, Owner

Victory Mechanical

Bellingham, MA

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