Scott Friedman

4 Ways to Bring More Celebration to Your Organization (Scott Friedman)

Winning Well Connection

Scott has a special place in our hearts as he’s been an incredible encourager and friend both personally and professionally–and was actually on our first date (unbeknownst to him at the time). Scott is the founder of Together We Can Change the World with whom we’re on tour with during our second half of the Asia trip. TWCCTW is also our partner for our Winning Wells initiative bringing clean water wells to Cambodia.

When doing research for Celebrate! Lessons Learned from the World’s Most Admired Organizations, we asked our survey respondents: “What is essential in making celebration work in any organization?” The top for answers were: inclusivity, gratitude, play, and surprise.

Inclusivity – Making sure that everyone feels a part of the team. Everyone wants to feel a sense of belonging … it’s giving everyone a voice and the feeling that their voice matters.

Gratitude – A grateful feeling, emotion, or attitude of acknowledgment of the life we have and those that we share our life with. It’s the ability to count our blessings even when we’re feeling the pressure of daily responsibilities. It’s being thankful and showing appreciation for those that make a difference in our lives.

Play – Living in the present moment. It’s the ability to let go of anger, resentment, and emotions from the past and truly bring our best self to the task at hand. Being in this state of flow will allow humor, spontaneity, fun, and play to flourish in the present moment. How much fun is that?

Surprise – Honoring people through the element of the unexpected – surprising them with what is highest on their joy list. It’s catching people doing the right things and recognizing them on the spot. The reason celebration fails in most organizations today is that it becomes stale. There is a lack of creativity or conscious thought that is needed to make a celebration special. By learning more about what motivates employees and what brings them great joy, we can creatively add the element of surprise to their lives, and what a nice surprise that is!

Winning Well Reflection

In Winning Well we encourage recognition and celebration – after all, you get more of what you encourage and celebrate. But what really stands out about Scott’s approach to celebration is that it is more than an isolated response to something that’s happened. For Scott, celebration is a way of life. All of us can do with more appreciation of the good in our lives, our teams, and our work. You can follow up and incorporate more celebration into your life and work because Scott is graciously providing two free e-books to our readers.

Click on the images to download the books. Thank you Scott!

 

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One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes

Have you ever had a supervisor who congratulated you for doing something that you knew wasn’t praiseworthy, or worse, something you knew actually made things worse in the long run? Or have you seen a peer recognized for their “great work” only to find yourself secretly muttering “If they only knew?”

I see this happen all the time. Managers encourage the wrong behavior, for the wrong reasons…setting off a ripple effect of well-meaning frustration. “Seriously!? He got the award, after we saved his butt for that dumb mistake?” “If you loved what I did, do you realize I had to break three stupid polices to get there? The next time I do this when your boss doesn’t have a customer breathing down their neck, I’m likely to get written up for non-compliance.”

If you want people to pick up the love you’re putting down, be sure you’re rewarding the MIT (Most Important Thing).

3 Characteristics of Encouraging Encouragement

Truly encouraging encouragement is:

Relevant

The first key to real encouragement is have a real understanding of which behaviors are driving your long-term results. For example, what behaviors lead to long-term customer retention? What leadership behaviors build employee loyalty and engagement?  Sure it’s simpler to focus only on short-term outcomes. But recognizing and rewarding short-term results will encourage win-at-all costs tactics that create long-term havoc. Your encouragement sends an important message to the employee you’re encouraging and everyone around them. Be sure you’re celebrating what matters most.

Specific

You’ve taken the time to identify your team’s relevant behaviors– your Winning Well MIT (Most Important Thing).  Be sure you’re linking your recognition back to behaviors not just outcomes. Describe what actually happened and why it is important.

Ineffective: “Hey, Bob, Great work.”

Effective: “Hey, Bob, I really appreciate the extra hours you put in on that project last week to take a deep dive into the customer’s account and uncover the root cause of the issue. The customer was delighted and renewed with us for another three years.”

If you can’t describe the actual behaviors, you’re not ready to offer encouragement because you don’t know what people did and they won’t know how to do it again. When you take the time to get specific, people know you understand their work, and you reinforce positive contributions.

Meaningful

Effective leaders know that people are different. They want encouragement in different areas, and they receive encouragement in different ways. Some people hate the spotlight, and would rather not be recognized at all than to be called on the stage and be given a plaque. Others will be annoyed if you didn’t take time to understand WHY their breakthrough formula worked on that spreadsheet. Be sure you’re providing encouragement in a way that will be most impactful to your employees. Recognition can backfire when people don’t feel “got.”  To make recognition more meaningful: customize it, personalize it, make it timely, encourage strengths, align it, and involve the team (for more detail and specific ideas see Winning Well chapter 20).

Show Me the Love: Recognition that Makes a Difference (with video)

Yesterday a high-potential, high-performing VP called:

Karin, the thing is, I know I’ve been accomplishing a lot. And I shouldn’t need this. But, I just wish one of the big guys would just say “thank you.” HR and my peers have told me “Oh, if you haven’t heard anything, you can be sure you’re doing just fine. if you’re screwing up, that will be perfectly clear. No news is good news. But. The truth is, I’m so hungry for a simple “thank you,” or a nod that I’m on the right track. Is that bad?

Of course not, I replied. “It means you’re human.”

Yes, even the guys getting paid “the big bucks” need to hear that they matter and are making a difference.

If they are, and you’re in a position to tell them– please do. And if they’re not, please tell them why. Silence does nothing to advance the game.

And for everyone else. If an exec being given increased responsibility and a healthy paycheck feels this way, imagine what the lack of meaningful feedback and recognition feels like at the front line.

When it comes to showing appreciation, it’s hard to over do recognition–  if it’s done well and is spoken from the heart.

And so this Valentine’s Day we bring you…

The Importance of Applauding Yourself

Confident, humble leaders take a moment to privately applaud themselves. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a mini-timeout to tell yourself “Wow! Great job,” particularly for the incremental baby steps that change the game. Privately applauding yourself is vital if others aren’t looking at or caring about your greater mission.

One of the great joys of my new journey is that I get to meet so many kindred spirits from all over the world. I’m honing my “confident-humility” radar-detection system. I’m pleased to introduce Roberto Martinez from Bogota, Columbia to you through his guest post and short video interview.

I met Roberto after a speech I gave at the National Speaker Association’s Business Accelerator Lab.  He’s a doctor, a musician, a teacher, a speaker, a husband and father doing important work. You have to pull all of that out of him, though, because mostly he’s a humble man working to inspire good where it needs to happen most.

I was inspired by his thinking on taking time to “applaud yourself.” (Watch the video to hear more.)

See my interview with Roberto here. 

Roberto Martinez’s Thinking on Applauding Yourself

Some time ago a friend of mine asked me how to stay true to your journey toward fulfilling your dreams.  After all, it’s hard. There are competing pressures. Here’s my best thinking for the LGL community.

  1. Link to Passion:  Be sure that what you’re doing is connected to your passion and to your greatest purpose in life. It is not about “the what”… it is about the “why” and “the what for.”
  2. Don’t Think Small: The key is to verify that you are not doing what you want for a small reason. As I told my friend, make sure you are walking up that road not only to pay the rent, or to be able to go to the movies after you paid the bills of the month, but to create something really great. Something that counts for many and helps many people around you,while you are in the process. Your true passion is that thing that will get you out of your bed every morning full of energy and with a big smile in your face!
  3. Bring Optimism:  You have to mix that passion and intention with optimism, so you can ignite persistence. Remember that real optimism is not about being always happy, or never finding a bump in the road. It is about having confidence that sooner or later you will reach all your goals, even if you don’t necessarily know at present how you will accomplish them. If you persist in the intention and do the homework, you will find the way and you will meet the right people to overcome the barriers.
  4. Applaud Yourself: Celebrate the small victories that you have along the way. Usually people throw big parties, receptions and celebrations when they accomplish great steps, but you know what? You do not have to celebrate these great victories! Other people will celebrate them for you.  The ones that you have to celebrate are precisely the small ones. Those that nobody know about but you. Those victories that in the bottom of your heart you truly know they were very hard to gain, but you did it. Those victories will give you the confidence and the strength to continue when everything seems uphill.
  5. Be Aware of Your Legacy:  Make sure you are going accompanied in the road. Whose life is easier down the road as a result of your efforts? This is certainly one of the steps that creates the greatest commitment to your vision because is no longer just about you– it is about them.
  6. Enjoy the Journey: At the end of the day, it is not so much about the goal itself… it is about the type of person that you will become as you pursue the goal.

The synergy of these six steps will inspire you, and others, to support your vision.

I would love to hear your insights and thoughts. Feel free to reach out. Roberto@rmleadinglife.com

Visit Roberto’s site rmleadinglife.com or find him on Facebook, or Twitter @rm_leadinglife

The Simplest Way To Hear The Best Stories

Everyday your team is doing great work. Sometimes you miss their stories. Some folks will go home and tell their stories around the dinner table. Others can’t, or simply won’t. Don’t let stories go unheard, or untold. Find ways for them to share impactful adventures.

Story Listening Made Easy

I lead a remote team, scattered across 3 time zones in 25 locations. It’s impossible for me to scratch the surface of all the good work going on. Once a month we carve out time to share stories.

Each of my directors nominates one or two team members who’ve been up to something great, along with a few notes, focusing on the behaviors that are leading to success. Those nominees then are invited to a “kudos with Karin” call. Just a dozen or so storytellers and me (we skip all the layers in between). No prep required.

I set the stage, and go down the list. I share the highlights of their story as I understand it; what they’ve contributed, and the positive behaviors that led to success. Then I turn the table, and ask the honoree to share “their side of the story.” What they’re most proud of. Why it worked. Best practices they would highlight.

Almost always, their story includes why it’s an OUR story, a group effort, and more names are thrown into the mix for follow-up. The storytelling blossoms with interactive energy. Their story becomes a FUTURE story of possibilities. Folks call one another off-line to learn more. We learn through collaboration.

I then ask, is there anything else exciting happening personally or professionally you would like to share with the group? More stories emerge: going back to school, babies, graduations, substantial weight loss. The energy lights up a notch and this remote group feels even more connected.

The Difference

Traditional recognition is vital. But it usually goes one way. We receive the nomination, share highlights, present the plaque, applaud and move on.

Try turning tables and be a story listener.

Respond. Cull out themes and common behaviors. Let the recognition emerge naturally from the storytelling. No fuss. No plaques. Just a great feeling on a Friday afternoon. And another story for them to share around the dinner table.

What I Appreciate Most About Your Leadership

What do you appreciate most about each member of your team. Have you told them? The other night I heard a fantastic leadership best practice.

Every time the leader has someone new join his team, he takes the time to write down “why I hired you,” frames it, and gives it to the new team member. Powerful, confidence-building reinforcement.

Each new employee starts the job knowing what their new boss appreciates most. Buoying reinforcement, sprinkled with insights into what their new leader cares about.

I was sharing this idea with a leader on my team, and lamented, I sure wish I had done that for you guys. She looked right at me, and said. “It’s not too late.” Her thirsty look made me realize I had work to do.

So this Sunday morning, I worked to identify the 3 areas I most appreciate about each member of my direct report team. I didn’t over think it. The whole exercise took less than an hour. No fancy frames, just a weekend email to start their week.

Why It Was Hard

Just as I started to write, my internal struggle began. What if. They were disappointed in the characteristics I appreciated? I would have to be clear, this was merely my view on how their leadership was showing up, a subjective, single perspective.

I also realized how little practice I had just recognizing leadership qualities, without the context of accomplishments or results. I did not want to appreciate them for amazing year over year growth. It was about how, not what.

And of course there was the awkward constraint of only focusing on appreciation. We live in a balanced feedback world. I resisted the urge to share the “and now you just need to work on” stuff. Save that for another day.

What I Appreciate Most

The exercise became a meditation. I felt deep appreciation and connection bubbling up. I became overwhelmed by thoughts of synergy, and how much I appreciated them as a collective team. As I looked at the total list, it was not lost on me that what I chose to appreciate, said as much about me as them. I appreciated characteristics I’m missing, and those I value deeply.

A few excerpts from these notes…

I appreciate your:

  • high-energy, fascinated approach to everything. You love life and it shows.
  • relentless efforts to build genuine teams (down, up, and sideways). You live your motto, “no one wins unless we’re all winning”
  • strategic approach to what’s most important. You’re not easily distracted by “noise.”
  • deep desire to grow, eagerness to learn, and willingness to try
  • highly developed ability to listen, listen some more, and then speak with wisdom
  • strategic, scenario-based thinking. I love that before I can finish a sentence, you have a calculator doing the math
  • commitment to God and your family. It shows in your day job.

Tell each member of your team what you most appreciate about them. Be specific. Write it down. Don’t assume they heard you the last time you said it in the context of the other noise. The exercise will enhance your leadership. Let us know how it goes.

*Photo by Larry Kohlenstein

The Dumpster Effect: When Recognition Backfires

My husband and I approached the hotel for a wedding. We were staying on premium points (read that, free) for which I’m grateful, so I won’t disclose the hotel brand.

Parking was tight so we turned the corner. Right beside the dumpsters were several tables set up for a “recognition” luncheon for hotel staff. Full on signage included thanking them for their commitment to customers. Seriously. Bless their hearts (p.s. my team knows, “bless their hearts” is never a good sign).

I was floored. I thought,
“Let me get this right…you’re events superstars. You work to make every bride’s and corporate meeting planner’s dream come true. Have you EVER suggested an event by the dumpster? Surely some day this week you have empty banquet rooms. What in the world would encourage you to lay out white table cloths in the context of trash? What other options did you explore? Do you seriously expect the folks you’re recognizing to come back in and create magical, creative moments for your guests?”
Think twice.

Every ounce of recognition is inspired by good intentions.

Slow down. There’s a reason Santa checks twice.

Become Leader Of The Year

Remember how energized you were that time you received meaningful recognition? Perhaps it was something equivalent to the leader of the year award, in front of a big crowd. Hands were shaken and pictures taken. Or it might have been less formal, but deeply touched your heart. “Wow, they really get what I’ve contributed here.” Formal recognition feels fantastic (I know, informal is equally important, but that’s a different post.)

And then there’s the rest of the time. You do great work and no one seems to notice. Or, someone else gets the award, and you’re scratching your head. You suck it up, smile, and congratulate, but inside you’re hurt, maybe even a little bit mad. I’m not proud to say, I’ve been there, felt that.

Tonight

Tonight I’m hosting a big recognition dinner, complete with microphones, music, plaques and hoopla. A few well deserving leaders will feel fantastic. My team and I have debated the nominations, crunched numbers, discussed behaviors. We feel great about our choices. And yet, before I announce winners, I know I’ll get a familiar sick feeling, worried about the rest of the deserving leaders who will leave empty-handed.

Recognition has a sharp double edge.

Become Your Leader of the Year

Sure external validation feels great. But, real leadership energy comes from leading authentically toward your meaningful vision. Real leaders know when they are leading well. They don’t need someone else to tell them they’re leader of the year.

What do you long to be recognized for?

Take a few minutes this week and design the award you would want most to receive.

  • Name it.
  • Define the criteria.
  • Identify the specific outcomes you most long to celebrate.
  • Define the leadership behaviors you would want to model

Articulate what matters most. Perhaps it’s creating lasting change, or progress toward a meaningful cause. Maybe it’s developing others to unprecedented success. Get specific. Write up the talk track you would hear as you walked up to receive the award.

How are you doing?

Be honest. Would YOU nominate YOU for that award today? What must change? Where can you improve?

Don’t wait for external validation. Envision your leadership at its very best. Now, lead toward that. Become your best leader of the year. Make this your best leadership year ever.

Real leadershipThis week we are talking about the many angles of leadership “energy,” the second branch in the REAL model. Tomorrow,will take a deeper look at leadership energy. If you’ve not yet joined the LGL community, enter your email address to subscribe and never miss a post.

In Defense of Wow: It’s Okay to Be Impressed

Leaders who are afraid to acknowledge success lack confidence in their vision. Being impressed doesn’t incent laziness. Leaders gloss over great, looking for greater. They could have said, wow!

  • “This idea is amazing! But, I’d better not act impressed, or they won’t strive for more.”
  • “Sure the sales of this strategic product are great, BUT they are falling short in other areas.”
  • “Their year-over-year results are unprecedented, but there’s another team ahead. I’d better focus them on chasing that rabbit.”

Leaders think, “if I act impressed employees will stop trying.”

Worthy of “Wow”

When was the last time you let out a heartfelt “Wow!”? Not at a sunset. Or at a baby’s first steps. Or after a bite of chocolate cheesecake, all of which are certainly “wow” worthy. But when did you last “wow” at work?

“Wow has a reverberation – wowowowowow – and this pulse can soften us, like the electrical massage an acupuncturist directs to your spine or cramped muscle, which feels like a staple gun, but good.”
― Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers

Your team is accomplishing small miracles. Someone just trumped their personal best. Or, they worked all night to meet the deadline. Or, finally, the team is helping each other with no hidden agendas.

Look them right in the eye, pause and exclaim “Wow!”
But…
Resist the urge to “wow but” them..

In a post submitted for tomorrow’s LGL Frontine Festival, Tanveer Naseer, explains “feedback should make you hungry to achieve more.”

“I advised the students to savour this moment and to remember that it was thanks to their hard work, their persistence to overcome the obstacles in their path, and their drive to succeed that they were able to achieve this rare accomplishment. I followed this with a word of encouragement that they wake up the next morning with a renewed sense of hunger to once again push themselves to excel and move forward; to meet the new challenges they’ll face with the same drive and persistence that got them here.”

A good “wow” incents achievement. “Wowed” feels fantastic. It influences how you “wake up.”

Everyone needs feedback and tips to improve. Coach, respond, inspire. And every now and then, stop at “wow.”

Wow-a-Thons

My team holds regular, “wow-a-thons.” If I promise not to be too disruptive, they let me play along. A cross-functional group of leaders spends the entire day listening to customer interactions. If they hear a rep delighting a customer, they note what they heard and what makes it fantastic. They parade onto the floor to celebrate the fantastic “wow.” No coaching. No buts just celebration, with specifics. “When you said______” it really changed the customer experience. Wow. Thank you.”

If something was mildly wrong, they still celebrate, but make a note and find another example to address the concern. later. Wow doesn’t have to be perfect. The celebrating goes all day. Employees are uplifted. Team leaders practice watching for the good. It’s a party. Results sky rocket. No apathy is encouraged in these “wows.”

Tips for a Good “Wow”

  • Pick something amazing
  • Mean it.
  • Explain why
  • Be specific
  • Say it loud so others can hear
  • Vary the recipients (don’t always chose John)
  • ?

In Defense of Wow: It's Okay to Be Impressed

Leaders who are afraid to acknowledge success lack confidence in their vision. Being impressed doesn’t incent laziness. Leaders gloss over great, looking for greater. They could have said, wow!

  • “This idea is amazing! But, I’d better not act impressed, or they won’t strive for more.”
  • “Sure the sales of this strategic product are great, BUT they are falling short in other areas.”
  • “Their year-over-year results are unprecedented, but there’s another team ahead. I’d better focus them on chasing that rabbit.”

Leaders think, “if I act impressed employees will stop trying.”

Worthy of “Wow”

When was the last time you let out a heartfelt “Wow!”? Not at a sunset. Or at a baby’s first steps. Or after a bite of chocolate cheesecake, all of which are certainly “wow” worthy. But when did you last “wow” at work?

“Wow has a reverberation – wowowowowow – and this pulse can soften us, like the electrical massage an acupuncturist directs to your spine or cramped muscle, which feels like a staple gun, but good.”
― Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Prayers

Your team is accomplishing small miracles. Someone just trumped their personal best. Or, they worked all night to meet the deadline. Or, finally, the team is helping each other with no hidden agendas.

Look them right in the eye, pause and exclaim “Wow!”
But…
Resist the urge to “wow but” them..

In a post submitted for tomorrow’s LGL Frontine Festival, Tanveer Naseer, explains “feedback should make you hungry to achieve more.”

“I advised the students to savour this moment and to remember that it was thanks to their hard work, their persistence to overcome the obstacles in their path, and their drive to succeed that they were able to achieve this rare accomplishment. I followed this with a word of encouragement that they wake up the next morning with a renewed sense of hunger to once again push themselves to excel and move forward; to meet the new challenges they’ll face with the same drive and persistence that got them here.”

A good “wow” incents achievement. “Wowed” feels fantastic. It influences how you “wake up.”

Everyone needs feedback and tips to improve. Coach, respond, inspire. And every now and then, stop at “wow.”

Wow-a-Thons

My team holds regular, “wow-a-thons.” If I promise not to be too disruptive, they let me play along. A cross-functional group of leaders spends the entire day listening to customer interactions. If they hear a rep delighting a customer, they note what they heard and what makes it fantastic. They parade onto the floor to celebrate the fantastic “wow.” No coaching. No buts just celebration, with specifics. “When you said______” it really changed the customer experience. Wow. Thank you.”

If something was mildly wrong, they still celebrate, but make a note and find another example to address the concern. later. Wow doesn’t have to be perfect. The celebrating goes all day. Employees are uplifted. Team leaders practice watching for the good. It’s a party. Results sky rocket. No apathy is encouraged in these “wows.”

Tips for a Good “Wow”

  • Pick something amazing
  • Mean it.
  • Explain why
  • Be specific
  • Say it loud so others can hear
  • Vary the recipients (don’t always chose John)
  • ?

5 Secrets to a Kick-Butt Kickoff (how to host a motivational meeting)

Are you looking to host a kickoff meeting to inspire and motivate your team? When’s the last time you got the whole crowd together to rally around the vision, celebrate progress and have a little fun?

What if you got this note in your email today (I did)?

“I was approached by one of my employees this morning. He wanted to share with me what the Kickoff meant to him. He stated that he was so inspired by the enthusiasm and the things he heard, that he wanted to work harder than he ever has before. He said that he woke up 3 times in the middle of the night, thinking about what he had learned. He kept thinking about what he had to do to make sure that he made it up on stage next year as a top performer. He came into work today with a great attitude and a desire to create a WOW experience with every person he spoke to today. I also observed him in the break room today encouraging another representatives from his team to do the same.”

And then a follow-up message from one of the leaders on my team:

“and, that’s why we do what we do.” My response was one word. “Amen.”

The secret is not a great venue, fancy AV, or a high-priced motivational speaker. I’ve seen successful kickoffs in parking lots and warehouses. It’s something else

5 Secrets to a Motivational Kickoff Meeting

  1. Sincerity
    You can’t fake sincerity. It’s also impossible to have a once-a-year high-energy kickoff meeting if the rest of the time people are dragging themselves to work, or the leader is leading with fear and intimidation. Ensure that you bring your authentic self to the microphone (sure get out of your comfort zone at least a little), but the most motivating messages will come from your heart.
  2. Simplified Messaging
    Pick no more than 3 key messages you want to reinforce. Hit the points strong from several angles. Complicated Powerpoint slides will bore the crowd, make your slides pop with messages they will remember.
  3. Emotional Engagement
    Tell stories, have employees share what works, disclose a bit about what you wrestle with, find ways to share the microphone try “pulling out” the message rather than “imparting” your wisdom.
  4. Creative Involvement
    Okay, I’m a sucker for this stuff but only because it works. In the last month I have seen the entire fully costumed “cast” of “We Are The World” in a kickoff finale that reinforced every strategy, A VP dressed as a greaser sharing how to “rock” results, and more wigs and blinky lights than I can count. Creative “silly” reinforces meaningful messages. Get the team involved and see what they come up with there’s a singer-songwriter in every crowd.
  5. The Right Recognition
    Take the time to get this right. I can tell from the first drumroll whether the leadership has picked the right folks by the way the crowd responds. Don’t just look at numbers, consider other contributions as well. Who do you want the team to emulate?

Have you been part of a kick-butt kickoff meeting?

Why Isn’t This Incentive Program Working?

Incentive programs continue to be one of the most debated topics in management. Sometimes incentive programs work well. Sometimes they do not. Leadership can make a difference.

Have you ever experienced any of these scenarios?

  • You’ve implemented a new incentive program and results go down?
  • You roll-out a new contest and no one seems to care?
  • You announce a lucrative SPIFF program with substantial financial upside, and very few participate?

The Incentive Debate

Incentive programs can do wonders for driving short-term results. In my post on Confidence Bursts, I talked about how small rewards can create focus and an extra push to try new behaviors.

And yet, most leaders also understand the age-old challenge reinforced by Dan Pink in his TED talk: The Puzzle of Motivation (that received 4.6M views).

Contingent motivators often don’t work or can actually do harm, particularly for creative tasks.

In his book, Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work and Other Surprising Lesson’s From Brain Science, Charles Jacobs explains that when we do work that is inherently interesting our brain releases dopamine, giving us a drug-like high. Our brain needs engagement to get the happy chemicals. Money without engagement doesn’t have the same result.

What has been most interesting to me over the years is watching several work groups implement the exact incentive program to employees doing identical work with dramatically different results.  It’s not a matter of the incentive program being inherently flawed, but the context in which it is implemented.

Incentives are part of a larger change cocktail.

So, What’s a Leader To Do?

For many of you the question may not be, “Should we create an incentive program?,” but rather “How much of my leadership energy should I put behind this program I have available?” The opportunity is there to use incentives as a tool as part of your leadership. Is it worth it?

  • You see the benefit to your company.
  • You understand the potential impact on results.
  • You realize the financial opportunity for your team.
  • And yet, will it work?

In my experience incentives works best when the leader…

  • creates a clear link to the team’s vision and goals
  • helps the employees learn the necessary skills to succeed
  • talks about it constantly
  • gets silly with it
  • makes the program easy to understand
  • turns the program into a game or contest
  • helps team members visualize the math
  • creates friendly competition
  • tracks results in a visible way
  • ???

These programs almost always fail when the leader…

  • doesn’t believe it will work
  • “rolls it out” as a separate program
  • doesn’t teach the necessary skills
  • has too many other contests or incentives going on
  • finds it too complicated or too hard to administer
  • ???