GCE Strategic Consulting

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The Carrot and The Stick - What Great Managers Do to Motivate Their Team?

 In this final article of my management series I want to talk about the old cliche of the “The Carrot and The Stick.” If you missed my previous articles and or leadership articles please check out Dealing With Emotional Decision Makers or How to Stay Connected with your Employees.Both the carrot and the stick are extremely valuable in managing people. Using either one too much can be destructive. More seasoned managers of people understand when to use both of these tools - and when not to.  There is much more to management than just the carrot or the stick. As managers, we cannot expect to motivate and or beat our employees into delivering results; if we could, driving results through people would be simple. So, where did this metaphor of the carrot and the stick come from?  It was born of the Industrial revolution from the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. “This theory is derived from the old story of a donkey; the best way to move him is to put a carrot in front of him and jab him with a stick from behind. The carrot is a reward for moving while the stick is the punishment for not moving and hence making him move forcefully.” I would like to think that most of us have evolved beyond the level of a donkey plowing a field. However, I also recognize the importance of both rewarding and recognizing versus punishing an employee with a stick. I have seen some managers use only the carrot and, not surprisingly, they usually end up being taken advantage of and are ultimately fired. I have also seen others that only use the stick and the result is almost constant turnover because again, not surprising, people don’t like being beaten. Your employees have to believe that you will give the both the carrot AND the stick - and will do so only when warranted. Put another way, when you reward an employee, it has to have meaning behind it and when you punish, there must be cause behind it.There is much more to rewards and recognition than just the carrot and the stick. Other key incentives you need to provide employees are motivation, direction, career path, and help to get them through roadblocks - so they can actively avoid ever getting the stick.