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Forget carrot-and-stick motivators

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in Best-Practices Leadership

To get better results, companies don’t need better managers, says Daniel Pink, author of Drive. They need more radical autonomy among employees.

The old carrot-and-stick approach is failing, he says. It’s for work that most Americans aren’t doing anymore.

“It’s good for simple, routine, rule-based tasks, like turning a screw the same way,” he says. “But there’s 50 years of science that says it’s ineffective at creative, complex work.

Example: Atlassian, an Australian software company, holds something called “FedEx Days” once a quarter, on a Thursday afternoon.

On that day, leadership says to software developers, go work on whatever you want, with whomever you want. On Friday afternoon, show the rest of the company what you’ve done.

The initiative is called “FedEx Days” because team members have to deliver something overnight.

In one day, employees have come up with scores of ideas for new products, fixes to existing products, and other improvements within the firm.

The approach is radical, says Pink. Leadership is saying to a capable team, “Let me get out of your way, because you’re a talented human being.”

“What we want more than anything else is engagement,” he says.

— Adapted from “On Leadership: Poisonous carrots, blunt sticks,” The Washington Post.

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