“Carrots, do they help or hinder?”

Great leaders know shaping an inspirational and motivational workplace is the only way to sustain superior performance and achieve above average results. This is best accomplished through self-motivated team members, not external rewards or bonuses.

Everyone likes to be recognized and rewarded. When handing out rewards keep the following three things in mind:

First, inappropriate or ill-timed rewards consistently undermine sustained, long-term motivation and performance. While rewards give a temporary boost, motivation generally falls off sharply once people receive the reward and wait for the next one. Great team members don’t want or need rewards to control their environment or increase their efforts.

Second, offering rewards for something team members already enjoy doing many times undermines motivation and weakens performance. Often rewards turn self-satisfying opportunities into real “work.”

Great team members appreciate rewards but would give the same effort without them. Poor attitudes and work ethics are never overcome by rewards. Most of the time they are only made worse.

Third, rewards often make it difficult for team members to be creative and solve complex problems. Incentivizing creativity, especially to meet deadlines, actually slows progress due to pressure and stress.

External rewards narrow their focus to a drive to the finish line closing off new connections and opportunities so vital to creativity. Excessive rewarding many times leads to unethical behavior instead of creative problem solving.

Poor leaders try to motivate inferior team members through a reward system. Great leaders give recognition, verbal and written, acknowledging true individual or team results.

Offering personal recognition takes reflection, observation and regularity. However, in the end it addresses the felt needs of your team members producing quality and sustainable results, not a temporary spike in behavior caused by an unpersonable reward system.

When was the last time you went out of your way to personally recognize the team members who make you look good? Carrots are helpful and appreciated, but nothing takes the place of a sincere “thank you”!