Carrot-And-Stick No More

Carrot-and-stick: The phrase reminds me of my elementary school principal who used to walk around playing with a wooden ruler. No, he was not an arithmetic kind of a guy, passionate to indoctrinate all of us third and fourth graders into the secrets of Pythagoras and Archimedes. The ruler was his stick. I have somehow forgotten if there were ever any carrots. If we were nice, obedient, disciplined and compliant, the ruler stayed on his desk. If we were the normal kids we all were, we got to feel his ruler on our legs (yes, that was allowed back then!)

So, slowly and gradually the idea of reward, motivation, punishment and power were introduced into our very young lives. I presume it must have been something equivalent for most of you.

And then, all of sudden, we all became the grown ups we are all today. Some are more compliant than others, some have an easier time playing James Dean in Rebel Without (or With) A Cause.

We all have our reasons for doing things. And how well we perform, and how proud we are of our achievements and how well our boss is the one who motivates us or how well we motivate ourselves is a long and complicated story worth unraveling.

So, what drives people?

The discussions and the debate has been long and hard and we all acknowledge that each one of us has his own trigger points. Personalities, experiences, character traits, specific situations with particular people and the landscape changes accordingly.

“Cash bonus” has almost reached the point of becoming a dirty term as Wall Street scandals of all sorts come to mind, but money – and great money at that – has been a driving force through the history of mankind. But is this really the case?

A recent study by McKinsey showed that praise, attention and the opportunity to lead a project – all non-financial incentives – are more or at least as attractive motivational factors.

Dan Pink in his latest book, Drive recognizes the same principle – that the carrot and the stick no longer work (if they ever did).

Being nicer may be just the beginning, however understanding the motives behind the decisions, the actions, the reasoning produces much better results.

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