Carrot & stick failing? Try encouragement

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,People Management

“Motivation” is a hot property right now. The word literally means “moving,” but it’s come to mean moving toward a goal.

Motivating people is extremely hard, and only a few methods seem to work:
  1. Inspiring them to pursue a cause.

  2. Caring about their welfare, which may inspire gratitude and a wish to reciprocate.
On the other hand, you can “demotivate” people in many ways. The old carrot-and-stick methods, allegedly used to motivate, have a strong chance of producing the opposite effect.

The carrot method, or “upping the ante,” is only good up to a point. Bribes are subject to rapid inflation.

As for the stick method—well, fear is a poor motivator. It lasts only a short time with diminishing returns, until its targets start to resist. Think of a donkey. Punishment may prod someone into motion, but not enthusiasm.

What if, instead, you didn’t try to motivate but to encourage?

“Encouragement” is a warm word. It literally means to “fill with courage.”

When someone isn’t making progress, usually something’s causing it. It could be character, the wrong job, insecurity or illness.

Bottom line: A good leader will take a little time with people and encourage them to identify and fix whatever is holding them back. No carrot. No stick. Just encouragement.

—Adapted from “Why ‘improving motivation’ is rarely, if ever, the answer,” Slow Leadership, www.slowleadership.org.

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