Use a Stick or a Carrot ?

carrotMotivating people to do their best work, is the greatest challenge being faced by Managers & executives in today’s corporate world. In fact it is a centuries-old problem which has been been addressed as far back as Aristotle’s time.

From time to time management gurus continue to revisit the issue of motivation. Some new research states that the brain chemicals that control behavior indicates that both punishment and reward are necessary for performance.

Generally in all spheres of life people are made to refrain from indulging in certain behaviours by being given punishments. This is done at home by parents to maintain discipline, at schools by teachers and even by managers in organizations.  However the debate continues as to the effectiveness  of punishments versus motivation on behaviours and which one works better.

Further the question also arises as to “What do we mean by motivation? “ It is the inner force that drives an individual to constantly strive to achieve the personal goals we have set for ourselves and the organizational goals set by our Manager.

And why do we need motivated employees? The answer is survival. Motivated employees are needed in our rapidly changing workplaces, and to be effective, managers need to understand that and do something about in a constructive manner which produces the required results.

John Baldoni, the author of Great Motivation Secrets of Great Leaders, concludes in his book  that motivation comes from wanting to do something of one’s own free will and that motivation is simply leadership behavior—wanting to do what is right for people and the organization.

Ultimately, true motivation boils down to three elements:

  • AUTONOMY – the desire to direct our own lives;
  • MASTERY – the desire to continually improve at something that matters to us; and
  • PURPOSE – the desire to do things in service of something larger than ourselves,

The traditional “command-and-control” management method in which organizations use money as a contingent reward for a task, are not only ineffective as motivators, but are actually harmful.

On the other hand. the carrot-and-stick approach worked well for the typical tasks of the early 20th century – routine, unchallenging and highly controlled. For tasks where the process is straightforward and lateral thinking is not required, in such a scenario rewards can provide a small motivation without harmful side effects.

However, things have changed drastically and jobs in the 21st century have become much more complex and challenging, more interesting and more self-directed, and this is where the carrot-and-stick approach has become unstuck and does not work any longer.

The implications of this for leadership are tremendous. The managers and leaders of today must both be cognizant of the latest research and trends on motivation, in order to be successful. Further they must be ready to take action and make those organizational and relationship changes required, in order to successfully motivate their employees.


3 thoughts on “Use a Stick or a Carrot ?

  1. One strategy I learned as a teacher was to allow students (or workers) to set up their own goals and support them to meet those goals. This keeps them highly motivated to achieve something they set for themselves.


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