It was a hot summer morning. I was slopping paint on the deck along with my family. I thought I was doing all right. But to be honest, I really didn’t know much more than to methodically move the paint roller back and forth and smear the white goo over the boards.
Suddenly the criticism of my father stung me like a thousand wasps.
I don’t remember how many times he offered me suggestions as to how to do it better, but I quickly reached the breaking point. Anger rose within me like water boiling out of a tea kettle.
I threw the roller down and spun around to face my father.
“Fine. You can paint the deck yourself then!”
I stomped through the house, down the stairs, and charged into my bedroom, slamming and locking the door behind me.
Pride and Punishment – Which Motivates a Team the Most?
Sometimes as leaders the pressure of getting the job done gets the most of us.
You don’t want to waste time, so you have little tolerance for mistakes.
You don’t want to lose control, so you micromanage every detail.
You’re think that immediate criticism is the best way to go, so you do it liberally.
What this reveals is a truth all leaders know. Being responsible for other people is a messy business. They might do it wrong. They might not finish on time. They may not give it as much effort as you think they should.
So, what’s the solution then?
Here’s what John Wooden had to say about it: The carrot is mightier than a stick.
4 Team Motivation Strategies You Need to Know
You’ve probably heard how to motivate donkeys.
What you do if you want tbe donkey to move is dangle a carrot in front of him. If he’s hungry, the sight and smell of the carrot will drive him to move toward it. When that happens, the donkey will move the load you’ve attached to him.
But what if you took a stick and hit the donkey to get him to move?
Pain can be a great motivator – for a little while. If something hurts you, what is your immediate reaction?
I’ll bet you’ll move away, won’t you?
When something hurts, you’ll do everything you can to avoid it.
When something brings you pleasure, like enjoying some great food, you’ll do it again and again.
Let’s look at 4 ways you can put the power of positive motivation into practice with your team.
1. It’s easier to motivate with praise than with punishment.
When my father criticized my work, he was using a stick.
When he came to me later and said he was sorry, he was using a carrot.
Sticks bring shame when used in public. Try never to do this. If you have something critical to say, do it one-on-one, away from the crowd. The effect will be as different as night and day. Why? Because while the criticism may hurt, you’ve at least allowed that person to save face.
You can take some of the sting out of criticism by combining it with praise. Be sure to mention something they’re doing well so they have some hope of getting better. After all, isn’t hope a million times better to live with than despair?
2. Make sure your praise is genuine.
Do you want to know a simple way to make the most of praise?
There’s one simple rule.
If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.
It’s great to hear positive comments. But they have so much more power when they are heartfelt and genuine. Use praise too often and it will be as worthless as a wooden nickel.
And if you mean what you say, you’ll be trusted more.
3. Don’t let your team members criticize each other.
Why do marriages fall apart?
Why do children leave home and never return?
What is the top reason people leave a job?
An environment of internal bickering, backbiting, and criticism.
Any team divided against itself can’t stand. They don’t need a strong opponent to defeat them. They’ve already laid that foundation themselves.
A team that is united is hard to beat. That unity forges the links in a chain that is nearly impossible to break.
4. Don’t lock yourself into a bunch of rules.
It’s good to have a structured environment.
A house needs an internal framework to build on so it can stand. But over time, you’ll find that parts of the house will need adjustments. You may need to paint the outside. The flooring will need to be replaced at some point. While these change the look of the house, the internal structure remains, doesn’t it?
The lesson here is to be flexible. Decide what rules are really inviolable and which are subject to the circumstance and individual involved.
John Wooden said that if someone knows what punishment to expect, she may weigh the risk and take it. But if she doesn’t, the fear of unknown consequences may keep her from taking the chance.
The Power of Positive Reinforcement
As a leader, make sure you use more carrots than sticks.
Do that and your team will be stronger, more motivated, and more capable.
And isn’t that what every leader really wants?