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Rewarding Gold Behavior

Working with 50 sales leaders in a business storytelling workshop in Florida this week, we focused on telling stories that inspire and influence people to action. I’m always struck by the range of emotionally rich stories that come from leaders who are so passionate about the people in their businesses.

The leaders invited me to attend their fun evening after-party, which was Olympics-themed and induced frenzied team competition for the medals. (My team won the gold medal. Just sayin’. ;-)

Incentives Drive Human Behavior

Seeing these leaders laugh and compete so strongly for a plastic medal and bragging rights got us talking at the bar later about the Olympics and the incentives that drive human behavior.

What makes some people willing to dedicate every waking moment of their lives for years on end to winning a medal at an international competition? Many of these athletes make huge financial and other sacrifices in their personal and professional lives for this sense of achievement and recognition.

The insightful regional sales leader, whom I’ll call Jim (because that’s his name), talked about a leader’s need to find what motivates each individual, whether it’s personal recognition, money or something else, and tailor your incentive to those needs.

Jim had a couple of great examples:

  • One small business owner wanted to motivate his professional staff to increase sales of a particular product. He set a certain goal for sales that month and promised his team members that they’d have a wine and mani-pedi (manicure/pedicure) party at a shop near their office.

The goal was quickly met and the office team spent the evening together drinking wine, laughing and relaxing. The owner said that giving each person $50, which is about what his event cost, wouldn’t have had nearly the same effect. The team preferred an enjoyable experience.

  • Another business owner did something similar. One of his employees complained that her husband promised to wash her car but would never get around to doing so. This entrepreneur told his staff that if they met a certain sales number that month, he would have all of their cars professionally detailed.

Sure enough, the goal was met and exceeded. A professional auto detailer spent the day in the parking lot making the cars look like new. People kept looking out the window with excitement. The employees were thrilled, especially the woman who had voiced the complaint about her husband.

But an unexpected benefit arose when the woman’s husband, who didn’t have to carry the guilt, excitedly called to thank the business owner. A small financial investment reaped business benefits and employee happiness at work and at home.

Understand Their Needs

The real lesson for leaders, whether you have the title or not, is to understand the needs of others and fulfill them to inspire action. It doesn’t take a huge amount of money.

What speaks more loudly to people is the thought, creativity and customization to meet their needs.

It could be as simple as a coffee mug, a t-shirt or lunch.

A small recognition, done sincerely, can have more impact than a large financial incentive delivered with indifference.  This, of course, is true as much at home as it is at work.

What motivates and inspires the people in your life and business?

What simple incentive can you create to help achieve an objective or strengthen a team?

Give it a try – reward gold behavior.