I’d like a bigger carrot please…

Motivation is literally the desire to do things.

It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day.

It’s the difference between picking up the phone to make the call about a new job, or sitting there staring at the walls in the current job that you don’t love.

It’s the difference between eating the extra biscuit at bedtime or setting the alarm to get up thirty minutes earlier to do some exercise.

It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals.

Research shows you can influence your own levels of motivation and self-control. So figure out what you want, power through the pain period, and start being who you want to be, today not tomorrow.

Should we rethink how we run our business to empower motivation?

Most believe that if you want people to perform better you reward them, you incentivise them. But do contingent motivators truly work in business? The ones that state that ‘if you do X, you will get Y?’

Sometimes yes, but more often I find that they do harm and social science agrees with me. If you study the science behind intrinsic and extrinsic motivators you will see that there is a huge mismatch between what science has proven and what we tend to see in business.

Business tend to rely upon ‘carrots and sticks’, the extrinsic motivators, but is there a better way to motivate rather than a ‘reward or punishment’ approach?

Possibly, but for simple, clear tasks, an extrinsic motivator is often better. Why, because it focuses the mind on the task in question. For example, I’m writing this blog against a 3:30pm deadline, why, because I want to spend the afternoon with my daughter, that’s my reward.

Bigger carrots mean less performance…

When an ‘if/then’ task calls for a rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward has been shown to lead to a poorer performance. The London School of Economics paper by Dr Bernd IrlenBusch proved this in a study of 51 ‘if/then’ tasks that resulted in financial reward stating that ‘financial incentives can result in a negative impact upon performance’.

Hence you see in business, that too many businesses make decisions on assumptions that are outdated and not proven by science. Is this how you incentivise your workforce?

Don’t do more of the wrong things!

Don’t give people bigger carrots or look for a bigger stick, look at ways to intrinsically reward people.

Look for things that make them feel:

  • Important,
  • That they matter,
  • Enjoyment for what they’ve achieved,
  • That they’re part of a team,
  • That what they’re doing is interesting,
  • That they are part of something important.

Give them…

  • Autonomy – the urge to direct their own lives, to decide how to prioritise what they do.
  • Mastery – a way of them getting better at what they do each time, give them a way to learn.
  • Purpose – a reason to do something that is bigger than just doing things for themselves.

Want more information? And a free review of your performance incentive program?

If you are looking at how to achieve this, then we have a simple one page crib sheet to guide you through staff incentive programs and how to create one. Just click here to receive one.

Plus, the first 5 people to do so will also receive a free review of their performance incentive program, worth £473+VAT.