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Positive Management for Maximum Results.

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Orchestra Conductors are Brilliant at Positive Management Orchestra Conductors are Brilliant at Positive Management

Reward Small, Incremental Milestones to Achieve Big Success.

Some managers motivate with fear. Some managers must control every activity.  But by far the best way to get top performance out of a team is to measure and reward achievement of small milestones along the way. 

In my experience, it was remarkable how a small prize at the end of a busy week to a top performing individual engendered more loyalty than an annual bonus or commissions worth thousands more.

Modern enterprises must be creative and agile to innovate and prosper.  The key to innovation is a motivated work force that can bring new ideas to the front line and execute them well.  It requires much more than just working harder and being more efficient.  

To develop an agile workforce, you must create an environment where people care about the mission, want to do their best work and are encouraged to exceed expectations. A culture of fear and punishment can never achieve this.  Only a positive environment where ideas and good performance are instantly rewarded will the entire company embrace the change and innovation that is required to succeed in a fast paced, competitive global economy. 

The most successful leaders break down big goals into small, near term goals and reward success on the spot, not weeks or months later. 

This is well understood in sports.  A high jumper who wants to jump over six feet would never make it if the bar were always set at six feet. Only by setting the bar lower and gradually raising it, can any jumper get to that level. Only by cross training and working on each aspect of the jump mechanics in small pieces can a six foot jump be achieved. So is it true with corporate performance. A sales manager who sets intimidating annual sales goals and then lashes the team to perform is likely to fall substantially short. A manager who sets achievable daily or weekly goals is likely to outperform a lofty annual target. 

Some managers will say this is all too complicated and they are far too busy to be handing out rewards on a monthly, leave alone hourly, basis. But in fact this is the essence of managing a modern organization and motivating a talented and diverse workforce. If you don't have time for setting objectives and rewarding behavior, then, really, what are you working on? 

Here are ten tips for getting better performance through positive management of incremental success.

1)  Set lofty goals for yourself and the company - think no small thoughts. Recruit people who believe in the mission - get rid of the whiners and skeptics.

2)  Break down the goal into small, incremental objectives. An annual sales goal, a product launch or a geographic expansion should be broken down into small achievable milestones or objectives to be rewarded individually.  Behavior which tends to lead to success can be rewarded initially instead of results.  Managers should obsess over defining the increments.  Rewarding the number of outgoing sales calls in a day is much more powerful than chasing a monthly revenue target. Once the team is making a lot of calls, measuring the quality of the leads they generate or the number of proposals they send out might be the next set of milestones.  Reward the behaviors that tend to lead to success, raise the bar steadily and the results will take care of themselves. 

3)  Encourage and provide frequent, positive feedback and rewards.  Daily rewards are much more powerful than weekly or monthly payments.  Perhaps its is hard to imagine paying rewards daily, but saying "good job" or "thank you" might be enough and, if well timed and consciously given, can generate huge results quickly.  

4)  Pay the rewards as close to the desired behavior as possible.  The most powerful results come when rewards are instantaneous and delivered at the exact moment the desired goal is met. If a scientist were studying your results, they would measure how close the reward came to the desired behavior in milliseconds. A positive email, congratulatory phone call or 'high five' at the exact moment a milestone is achieved is powerful. One orthopedic surgeon uses a clicker to signal when a student is using good technique in a procedure. An orchestra conductor smiles at a soloist in the middle of a good performance. The business world is also filled with opportunities to provide immediate positive feedback. 

5)  Develop a set of rewards that can be easily given out.  These should creative and varied ranging verbal praise to a coupon for a dinner, a day off or cash in an envelope. It might be trivial for a CRM system to monitor and pay the equivalent of 'frequent flyer' points during the day for individuals who achieve desired milestones.  Assigning more interesting work can be a great reward. High on the list of rewards are accolades. Managers should lose sleep over the rewards - don't hand the job over to compensation consultants. Be more creative than posting an employee of the month photo. What do people really want?  What is motivating?   What is needed this week?  

6)  Reward specific goals or milestones, not a long list all at the same time. If you are not clear about the goals, then your team certainly cannot be. When a new goal is set you should relax the criteria for other goals for a period of time. For example in tennis, if you want to put more spin in your serve, you need to relax on power and accuracy for a period of time.  In business, you may need to initially focus on encouraging activity (like outgoing calls) that is known to generate results without regard to other objectives for a period of time. 

7)  Never be afraid of lowering the bar or relaxing the criteria to give the team some easy wins and get the motors going again.  A runner that is exhausted doing five mile runs will be totally refreshed backing down to three mile runs for a few days. 

8)  Rewards for certain achievements should be faded away in favor of new goals, new activities and new rewards.  Rewards should be variable and unpredictable to have the biggest impact. If $100 checks are given out every Friday, they will soon be assumed and lose their power. Consider random rewards which are paid occasionally for specific good behavior which are far larger than the norm ($1000 when $100 would be appropriate).  Random rewards if well directed may be the most motivating of all. 

9)  Punishment is not a reward.  By rewarding behavior you want to encourage, rather than punishing behavior you want to discourage, you create a positive, 'can do' environment where people will innovate and exceed expectations. The more punishment, threats, favoritism and coercion are in the mix, the more fear and conservatism enters the picture stifling creativity and innovation.

10)  Last, but not least, develop a set of rewards for employees to seek more training that would allow them to do their jobs better. In my experience, training was frequently a 'check-the-box' obligation imposed by some distant leader, frequently for content that had little direct relevance to our work, and any absence was at best tolerated. No successful sports coach would ever think that way.  What if the top performing trainees got a $500 check the day they completed the program?  $5,000?  Rewards for high achievement at relevant training will always get the desired results much quicker than commissions or bonuses alone. 






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Ted Pryor
Ted Pryor
Ted Pryor is a Managing Director with Greenwich Harbor Partners and focuses on senior level executive recruiting in Media, Technology and Business Services including general management, sales, marketing and customer service. He has over ten years of experience as a senior executive at GE Capital and over 20 years of experience in corporate finance. Prior to executive recruiting, he served as CFO and CEO of a venture backed start-up company.

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