Stick, Carrot or F2F?

Employees can be motivated by a stick. A boss might use a stick, such as warning, “If you don’t do this, you’ll be fired,” in order to speed up results.  The problem is that after a short time, people begin to mentally, emotionally, and physically reject the stick. When employees choose to be rid of the stick, they ultimately leave the company, taking their intellectual property with them.

In a similar manner, a carrot can invigorate employees. A carrot might seem like a safer way to encourage workers to meet a goal—“If you reach 10,000 points, you will get a bonus.” But once again, carrots only motivate for a short amount of time, especially if the carrot is out of reach for some employees. Even if the carrot is placed reasonably within the employees’ grasp, the carrot eventually loses it attraction, causing the ploy to backfire and demoralize the workplace. If only carrots will get workers to perform, then performance will decline until a newer, better reward is offered—or found at another place of employment.

Neither the carrot or the stick, both external motivators, have the power to engage the mind and activate the intrinsic motivators required for the
long-term release and renewal of individual energy invested in the company.

How, then, should we motivate employees to achieve their potential? The answer is to build personal, one-on-one relationships, for that is the most effective way to help employees increase productivity and provide daily discretionary effort.

Let’s face it – it’s all about relationships. No matter what type of product or service our company provides, we are all in the people business, specifically to impact and enhance the behavior of those we work with. It is in our best interest to continually foster positive relationships at work. Here are 4 tips for creating one-on-one personal connections:

  1. Greet them – Morning greetings make a difference. For more information about the morning greeting, read the article, Managers, Morning Greetings Matter that has received over 7,000 hits on LinkedIn. Your responsibility is to affirmingly greet as many employees as possible in the morning. The goal is to help them maintain a positive outlook despite the difficult challenges they face.

A morning greeting gives you the opportunity to informally ask how the project is coming. Take this time to detect any confusion, tardiness, or the need for more explanation.  Ask for specific feedback, but do so without making the employee defensive.  For example, don’t ask, “Have you finished the project yet?” Instead, ask questions like, “Have you received everything you need for the project?” You can act appropriately on the feedback you receive.

  1. Listen to them – Listening is a special skill. Some people have a personality that is well-suited for listening. For these people, listening to the cares and concerns of others in a nonjudgmental way is a natural gift. For others, listening may not come easily, but it is still a skill that anyone can improve with practice.

You don’t have to do anything but stop talking, look people straight in the eye and listen to them to have them walk away and say, “That was great conversation. Karla is a great woman.” Read this blog post, Catapult Your Career with Silence to find ways you can improve your listening abilities. Anything you can do be a better listener will help you build better relationships.

  1. Visit F2F – for texts or chats, we use F2F, meaning “let’s meet face to face.” We have technology that lets us virtually connect all over the world, but there will always be a need for personal, real-life communication in business.  Taking the time to meet in person will improve your professional connections. It permits you to read a person’s body language and emotion, such as fear, anxiety, distress, confidence, and sincerity. By taking these clues, you can customize your questions or responses to fit the person and the current circumstances.

When you meet F2F, also think of talking friend to friend. Try to keep it as informal as possible. Don’t record or take notes of the discussion. Employees may speak more freely than they would if they knew their words were being recorded or if they felt intimidated by authority.

As you talk, keep in mind this adage from management guru, Peter Drucker: “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” This quote summarizes the benefits of meeting F2F.

  1. Discuss issues immediately – When an issue arises and you perceive an opinion, attitude or emotion is negative, address it directly and as soon as you can. An example everyone relates to is a sore tooth. If it needs attention and you don’t go see a dentist, a bad tooth gets worse, festering and causing infection in your entire body.

Emotional issues between individuals are no different. The typical person hopes that conflicts will magically disappear. However, they fester, nag, and distract us from getting our work finished. To keep conflict from weakening productivity, schedule an F2F when a disagreement with colleagues or coworkers surfaces. Give them space to express their thoughts and emotions. Keep the discussion rational and logical. Allow space for silence in your conversation then trust your instincts as you work for a win/win for all parties involved.

Building one-on-one relationships with these four tips gives you the power to establish a business where employees are intrinsically engaged and where issues do not interfere with productivity.