Have you ever received "a reward" that disappointed you or, even worse, insulted you? I have and I'll never forget it. I'm glad it happened because it's a great lesson about what to do and what not to do when rewarding others for their accomplishments.
Last month, I suggested that understanding and applying the Three Needs Theory may help you motivate others. Once people are performing you want to recognize their efforts and encourage their behavior. If you do this incorrectly you may get disastrous results by discouraging people, which is what happened to me as an employee. The following story illustrates what not to do:
Over 10 years ago, I was working as a Senior Business Analyst for a Fortune 100 company. I ultimately reported to a director with a laissez-faire leadership style. This suited me fine as my immediate supervisor was supportive when I needed her. One day, I received a "Certification of Achievement" thanking me for a project that I worked on over a year earlier. My director had signed it and left it on my desk. This baffled and infuriated me. I was currently working on eight other projects and making real contributions to the company, yet he randomly chose to "recognize" me for an old project where I attended only a few meetings?
In retrospect, he was probably trying to be a better leader, but by not following the five tips below, he got the opposite effect. I was devastated that my current hard work wasn't recognized, and realized he wasn't paying attention to my performance at all, though he pretended that he was.
Here are five tips to properly reward performance using the acronym, TIP US:
- Timely: As soon as you see results, say or do something within 30 days.
- Individual: Try to make the reward unique to that person's interests to show your appreciation. Across-the-board rewards where everyone gets the same thing are common, not special.
- Positive: The person must perceive your reward as positive not negative. For example, an increase in responsibility may be rewarding to some people, but a punishment to others.
- Useful: Ensure the people can use the reward. The ever popular Starbucks gift cards don't work for people who live in remote areas or don't drink coffee.
- Sincere & Specific: Don't bother rewarding someone unless you are sincere in your appreciation (my director seemed to just print a certificate for me because someone said he should do that). Furthermore, I didn't even know why he gave it to me. It said, "Thanks for your hard work on the ERISA project." I had to figure out what he meant by "hard work." Be specific by saying what the efforts and/or results were that you appreciated (e.g. exceeding sales revenue goals by 10% or working weekends to get the project done on time).
Use these five tips, be creative with how you reward people, and understand what they perceive as a reward to be successful. Rewarding others can be rewarding for you and your company.
I'd love to hear your ideas for rewards and your success stories. Please share them by contacting me.