“There aren’t enough ‘carrots and sticks’ to get my team to be more productive,” a manager told me.  She said she was frustrated over her company’s paltry incentives, bonuses and reward programs.

“Great!” I said, scoring me a quizzical look.  “The whole ‘carrots and sticks’ thing is overrated,” I explained.  “In fact, company programs are the least effective ways to motivate your team. The real secret is this: employees want to be noticed and appreciated far more than they want perks or monetary rewards.”

A wary look washed across her face, the same one we see — initially, anyway — when we train leaders on how to increase morale.  It might sound simplistic or even silly, but it’s based on hard-tact fact. Truly!

In his TED Talk, Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, taps into scientific research that demonstrates the importance of using intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards. He shares several studies and concludes:

"The secret to high performance isn't rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake. It confirms what we know in our hearts….  If we get past this lazy, dangerous, ideology of carrots and sticks, we can strengthen our businesses, we can solve a lot of...problems, and maybe, maybe, maybe we can change the world."

For you as a manager, the takeaway is this: Noticing, encouraging and affirming your employees is mostly in your hands, not your organization’s. In other words, you can make a difference! 


Where to go from here...