Stop Dangling The Carrots and Throw Out The Sticks

The old carrot-and-stick motivation is not working for business anymore, so why are we leading and managing like we are still in the 20th century?

Dating back to the early 1900s, the practice of scientific management was based on the premise that all work consists largely of simple, uninteresting tasks, and that the only viable method to get people to undertake these tasks is to incentivize them properly and monitor them carefully.

To get as much productivity out of your workers as possible, you reward the behavior you seek, and punish the behavior you discourage -- otherwise known as the carrot-and-stick approach.

But contemporary science tells us that creative conceptual work brings joy in itself, and that what we crave is to exercise our capabilities, to explore and to learn. We are not hamsters in a wheel, even though we might feel that way at times.

The most talented people in any organization are motivated by the desire to do something that is bigger than themselves.

Threats and power do not scare them. Their biggest fear is that they have not made a difference.

So if your organization is still using the carrot-and-stick approach, don't be surprised if it isn't working -- don't make the common mistake of thinking the problem is that you need more carrots and bigger sticks.

People want autonomy, freedom and independence to work with passion about what brings purpose to them.

The best companies understand this. For example, the Australian a software company Atlassian allows their software developers to spend Thursday afternoons working on anything they want. And then on Fridays, people present their projects to the rest of the company. The approach is fun, it shows respect and it gives people creative freedom.

To motivate individuals within an organization, you must trust their purpose.

Passion:. When people align with passion and higher purpose, they are working in the flow and making the best use of their skills.

Understanding:. To motivate people, you must first understand them. Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can we make great things happen.

Respect: People perform at their best when they feel respected and valued. Give respect to everything you can, anytime you can, to anyone you can. There will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.

Potential: To motivate people, look for their unique potential. When you recognize their talent, they'll want to show you more of what they can do.

Opportunity: Seek opportunities to let people shine, and let every moment be an opportunity for greatness.

Support: Sometimes all you really need to do for people is to be there supporting them, believing in them, standing beside them.

Empowerment: Feeling empowered is the ultimate motivator. What we can achieve can change our reality. There is no greater motivator for empowerment than people inspired to create a better life.

Allowing your employees to have a sense of purpose will dramatically increase their commitment, loyalty and drive.

If the carrot-and-stick reward system has failed to increase your productivity, remember: What matters is having employees feel they are part of something bigger, something that gives them purpose.

Your people and your organization will thrive in ways that you could not even imagine.

Let the purpose of those who work for you help you build a highly productive and respected company.

When you know your purpose, you can set your priorities, and with clarity, you know how you can contribute to the organization, teams, world and society.

Purpose drives meaningful action.

People who are living their purpose have an overall good feeling and inner self-esteem; they trust themselves to do great work.

So if you look at your organization and you find it is still running its culture, leadership, motivation, with dangling carrots and sticks, stop and start maximizing your employees' motivation, and drive through purpose.

Purpose-motivated employees show drive and take action everyday in work and life.


Lolly Daskalis the president and founder of Lead From Within, a coaching and consultant firm that manages large scale corporate coaching and custom made leadership programs. Connect with Lolly Daskal.

Lolly Daskal's Book: Thoughts Spoken From The Heart: Over 500 Thoughts that Bring Meaning to your life.

© 2013 Lolly Daskal. All rights reserved.