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16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

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A leader’s primary function is to help employees develop a strong belief in the mission of the company and the importance of their individual jobs. Their secondary function is to ensure optimal results from delegated assignments and tasks given to employees. Excellent results spring from methods of motivation that help employees feel successful and increase their effort toward achieving goals and increasing performance.

Employees are the chief resource leaders can utilize to maintain and enhance their leadership abilities. Therefore, understanding and applying appropriate motivational methods for employees on delegated assignments is important for leaders. By motivating each employee to perform at his or her maximum level of efficiency, leaders also maximize their own success. Furthermore, as leaders motivate their people, they not only help the company gain financially, but also develop personal relationships between themselves and their employees.

Much research in behavioral science has focused on analyzing the factors that contribute to workplace motivation. Many studies indicate that the strongest factors are based upon individual self-determined needs. Aware of these factors, one can craft specific methods in the workplace to foster improvements in employee attitudes, their desire to excel and their feelings of success.

Leaders need to apply such motivational methods to effectively stimulate their organizational unit as a whole and the individuals within it. Once done, their units will reach peak performance, free from slowdowns and negative influences.

Motivational methods are effective when they are aimed at individual satisfaction. This is necessary to understand because methods that are positive motivators for some employees are not always effective for others. Each individual is driven by specific needs that determine their performance and whether or not they will accept new assignments. If specific needs are not met, it inhibits the employee’s desire to accept new challenges and delegated opportunities.

Outlined below are 16 major methods focused on individual needs and desires that leaders can use to effectively and consistently motivate their employees. When used by the leader intermittently, they produce high motivational success.

  1. Help employees see the final results of their dedicated and consistent efforts as being part of advancing their own careers and futures.
  2. Develop and utilize incentive programs that have a definite purpose and meaning for each employee. Linking incentives to productivity and results tends to be a more effective motivator than many other methods.
  3. Take time to give employees deserved praise and meaningful recognition. However, effective leaders will utilize this method in moderation; otherwise, it becomes meaningless. Praise must always be specifically related to performance rather than vague comments like, “You’re doing OK.”
  4. Provide all employees with goal-oriented job descriptions. This method charts a course for them to go in with specific actions they should accomplish to achieve positive results, and guidelines for how to be successful in assignments.
  5. Give each employee the opportunity to achieve. Even small tasks and assignments can build success. Any taste of achievement is a great motivator.
  6. Aid employees in determining personal goals. Leaders should link these to the overall goals of the company.
  7. Help employees acquire and maintain a spirit of achievement. Careful planning and organization of tasks and assignments directed at meaningful results can accomplish this goal.
  8. Help employees set and achieve personal self-improvement goals. These need to be realistic and achievable for individuals to grow and develop skills and knowledge.
  9. Acknowledge and publicly recognize employees’ accomplishments to reinforce the fact that they are valuable and important—a key need for individuals.
  10. Help employees understand their value to the company, the leader and senior management. By verbalizing employees’ value or giving them letters of appreciation to acknowledge their efforts, leaders effectively reinforce that achievements are important to both the individual employee and others.
  11. Tell employees how and why they are performing valuable and useful work. This means giving them effective and useful feedback about their progress in a way that focuses on personal productivity and how to increase performance.
  12. Listen with interest to employees’ problems, ideas, suggestions and grievances. Remember, even if seemingly trivial or irrelevant, these things are important to the employee.
  13. Never neglect or ignore an employee. A failure to provide individual attention is one of the worst mistakes leaders can make in terms of motivating or supervising their employees.
  14. Enact a personal commitment to a vision and direction. Effective leaders show employees how to give personal effort and provide consistent performance to align themselves with the vision.
  15. Help employees develop an increased sense of responsibility. Acceptance of responsibility facilitates feelings of success and a greater sense of self-worth.
  16. Relieve the boredom of assignments and tasks, where possible. Doing so makes work more meaningful for employees and allows them to be more creative and attain greater job satisfaction. Furthermore, it builds inward security and fosters self-motivation.


Six Steps to Educate Employees About Delegated Tasks and Assignments

Feedback is the Foundation of Effective Coaching

When Building Trust, by All Means Avoid These Six Behaviors

Motivation Is More Than Money

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Feedback is the Foundation of Effective Coaching

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A manager that wishes to communicate effectively must receive and impart reliable and honest input by observing, questioning and opening up productive two-way dialogue. Feedback is a major part of the total communication process that requires presenting ideas, thoughts and messages clearly and distinctly.

Within the workplace, opportunities generally surface that make it easier and faster to obtain and gather information through an informal feedback process. Informal feedback consists of the information that is provided to one another during normal workplace communications. It can be as simple as a supervisor or coworker commenting on a procedural flaw or an incorrectly completed procedure. Employees often dispense positive informal feedback by telling other coworkers when they did something well. Through daily interactions and informal feedback, leaders and managers are able to effectively establish key interpersonal-relationship connections.

The Purpose of Feedback

Before offering feedback it is essential to know just why you need it and what you intend to do with it. Below are some questions you should answer before offering one of your employees or anyone else specific feedback.

  • What is my reason or purpose for giving this feedback, and how do I intend to use it?
  • What specific actions or behaviors do I need to reinforce, alter, modify or correct?
  • What do I want to accomplish through this feedback and discussion session?
  • What specific information do I need to find out or learn more about?
  • What specific questions do I require answers to?
  • What issues of timing, location, advance preparation, or other logistics do I need to consider?

The Problem with Feedback

For some individuals just the thought of receiving feedback from another person, especially a manager or supervisor, becomes a terrifying experience. This is because they typically expect the worst, not the best, when hearing something about themselves. In fact, some employees will automatically define feedback (especially “critical feedback”) as negatively opinionated. However the actual definition of critical feedback is “the art of evaluating or analyzing with knowledge and propriety with the intent of providing useful information for future decisions.” As such, it is generally far better to focus on the positive aspects of the feedback, and interject as little of the negative as possible, especially if changing another person’s attitude or behavior is at stake.

Another reason some individuals tend to resist critical feedback has to do with personal self-image. When individuals sense, feel or believe that someone sees them in a less-than-positive light, they may feel anywhere from uncomfortable to devastated.

People like to hear what is consistent with their own views and tend to ignore ideas that run counter to their belief structures and comfort levels. It takes an open mind to listen to an opposing view, which may include hearing that they may be doing something ineffectively or possess a skill deficiency.

The Qualities of Effective Feedback

Good, reliable and usable feedback tends to have several characteristics that make it highly beneficial and valuable. For any feedback to be effective, it should be:

  • Descriptive rather than evaluative, which typically avoids generating levels of defensiveness
  • Focused on describing and detailing one’s own reactions, which leaves the individual receiving it free to use it or not to use it as he or she chooses
  • Quite specific rather than general
  • Focused on behavior rather than the individual
  • Focused on the needs of not only the receiver, but also the giver of the feedback, which is to help, not chastise or hurt
  • Directed toward a specific behavior or something the receiver can do something about
  • Asked for and not imposed on a person

The Use and Abuse of Feedback

Feedback is most useful when it is timely or immediate. This implies that it is wisest to offer it soon after a specific action or behavior warrants eliciting it. It is important to keep in mind that even effective feedback, if it is presented at an inappropriate time, may do more harm than good.

Feedback should be used for sharing of information, rather than for simply providing directions, opinions and advice. The main idea behind giving feedback is that it is intended to allow the receiver to personally decide its validity or usefulness, which is inherently based on whether or not it is in agreement or harmony with the person’s own goals and needs. Keep in mind that when anyone provides advice by informing another person what to do, that individual to some degree or another ends up taking away the other person’s freedom.

Effective feedback usage involves structuring the amount of information the receiver can use, rather than the amount the imparter would like to give. Overloading an individual with feedback works to reduce the possibility that he or she may be able to effectively use what is received. When givers of feedback continually impart more informative feedback than can be effectively used, they are more often than not satisfying some need of their own, rather than giving it in order to help the other person.

Effective feedback usage tends to be concerned with what is said and done, or how—not why. The “why” involves assumptions regarding motive or intent and this tends to alienate the person getting the feedback, while generating elements of resentment, suspicion, and distrust.

Excerpt: Coaching: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD


Supporting Employees’ Need to Achieve Maximum Results

Should Accountability Be a Primary Priority?

Assessing Employee Growth and Development

Nine Rules for Coaching Your Employees

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

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Leaders in the workplace hear several complaints every day. Some are minor and easily resolved; others are more complex, requiring complicated solutions. Leaders should have a specific procedure or decision tree set up to guide them through the resolution process fairly and consistently.

Decision trees come in different varieties, some more suited to particular issues than others. One type can be quite logical, providing the leader with a rather intuitive model to follow for simple problems. Difficult problems, on the other hand, require more complex models that give leaders the more intricate guidance they require.

Unresolved complaints are symptomatic of underlying issues in the workplace. When left unsettled, these issues fester and ultimately surface as major problems that can impact productivity, efficiency and performance, as well as expose an organization to legal liabilities. Leaders must always strive to resolve a problem; otherwise, employees who continually complain about the same issue yet don’t see action being taken likely have legal recourse. Even a seemingly minor issue can have potential legal ramifications that make the company liable for failing to address the complaint.

Effective leaders understand the importance of immediately addressing and resolving complaints. They know that lingering issues hinder the performance of their organizational unit by disrupting the harmony and balance required to maximize output. Additionally, the time invested in “nipping a problem in the bud” is well spent when compared with the time required to deal with a complaint that has exploded into a major problem. Good leaders furthermore understand that a quick and effective response to a complaint limits the company’s legal liability.

Undoubtedly, leaders are well-versed in dealing with daily operational problems (e.g. production, quality, scheduling and efficiency) associated with the organizational unit’s performance. And while it is possible these methods are effective at resolving related employee complaints, they are not the focus of this lesson. For present purposes, complaints will be limited to general workplace issues such as intimidation, harassment, bullying and other employee-related concerns.

When a complaint is initially brought to the leader’s attention, he or she will most likely immediately classify it as a problem that is either major or minor. This tendency is natural, as quick classification leaves the leader with the necessary time and energy to identify and resolve the problem.

However, leaders must take care not to minimize a complaint. They need to recognize that it takes courage for an employee to voice a concern. In fact, before the complaint is made, quite often the issue has been going on for a sustained period, with the employee making many failed attempts at resolving it. Hence, it is important that the leader carefully consider the complaint’s seriousness. Even if the individual tends to complain or whine about everything, each grievance should be examined on its own merits. If, after thoughtful consideration, the leader finds there isn’t much to the complaint, then it may be dismissed. But a repeat pattern of similar complaints may require further action on the part of the leader. On the other hand, some employees rarely complain, and when they do the problem may be more serious than it initially appears.

Once the legitimacy of a complaint has been established, several steps must be taken. A decision tree, as outlined below, guides the leader to the ultimate solution.

Preliminary Investigation

A preliminary investigation identifies underlying causes, the individuals involved and impacted, and the extent of the problem. When the problems causing the complaint are rooted out early, potential solutions can also be identified right away. If this is the case, leaders can act quickly to resolve the problem and move on to more pressing issues. If not, leaders must move on to the next step.


If the problem is bigger or more advanced than originally thought, then leaders must begin to document its extent—that is, the activities of the individuals causing the problem, and the complaints and actions of the employees affected by the problem.

Effective leaders understand the importance of documenting the problem: the process helps develop objective facts necessary for a satisfactory resolution and protects the company if the termination of employees is required.

Interview All Participants

An initial investigation of a complaint and a documentation of the facts should include personal interviews with everyone involved in the issue. This gives all parties ample opportunity to express their viewpoints. Leaders must take care to stick with the facts and not be biased by previous experiences with anybody or let their personal feelings impact their decisions.

Pinpoint the Causes and Solution

After interviewing all participants and listening carefully to what they had to say, leaders should be able to pinpoint the underlying causes of the problem. Sometimes the issue to be dealt with is obvious; in which case, immediate action is advised.

In more serious cases, leaders may need to consult with their superiors or the human resources professionals in their company to determine further action or attain recommendations. When issues of legal liability are involved in the solution, leaders must seek counsel from others more familiar with the issues. Effective leaders understand the limits of their responsibilities and the importance of calling on others with more expertise. When in doubt, it is best to call human resources to get their view on possible courses of action.

Implement the Solution

Depending upon the seriousness of the problem and who is involved in crafting and implementing the solution, leaders must take action as soon as possible. Clearly, the solution can take many forms and have a variety of actions. As a result, leaders will often have to sit down with the people affected, either individually or together as a group.

In these sessions the problem will be plainly laid out, the findings and extent of the problem will be reported, and a discussion of the possible solutions initiated. In certain cases where the problem is very serious, solutions can be presented without options, leaving the people who are causing the problem with clear instructions to cease their behaviors or face specific consequences. In other cases, the parties will discuss and agree upon a solution.

Once again, leaders aren’t doing this alone: they are guided by the seriousness of the problem, instructions from their superiors, and the legal liabilities and ramifications if the issue is not resolved. Each area offers unique guidance that, along with understanding the particular circumstances surrounding the problem, will help leaders identify the final resolution and the actions they need to take.

Monitor the Solution

After a solution has been implemented, leaders should actively monitor the solution and periodically interview the employees affected to assure their satisfaction with the outcome. The leader’s central purpose here is to ensure that the problem is completely resolved. If unresolved, then further action must be taken. Consequences may need to be revisited and more drastic action may be called for.

Leaders must understand that every complaint and problem is unique. Dealing with workplace issues means working with complex human behaviors that often have no simple or straightforward solutions. While some solutions are mandated by company policies or management direction, others require the leader’s persistent application of logic until the problem is completely solved.

Excerpt: Negative Employee Attitudes: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD


Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2014 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Motivation Is More Than Money

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When the topic of workplace motivation arises, the two primary issues managers focus on are rewards and recognition. This recognition often takes the form of compensation, but can also be manifested as accurate and timely feedback that acknowledges both positive and negative performance.

Many managers have focused their motivational efforts on the financial compensation an employee receives for their efforts. However, many have failed to understand the impact that clearly defined tasks and fast and accurate feedback has on their workforce. Consequently, they fail to ensure that both positive and negative feedback provided to their employees is directly related to their performance.

Aside from financial and budgetary means, it is important for managers to understand that they can increase overall performance through effective motivational techniques that increase employee productivity.

Harvard Business School conducted a number of employee surveys in a variety of industries. The hypothesis was that the employees who were paid the highest salaries and who had the appropriate personality traits, including drive and confidence, would be the best performers.

This hypothesis was soon discovered to be faulty. The actual top performing employees were defined not only by money, but by the following three factors:

Personal Impact

The top performers had the personality to bring about results through their own efforts. Each was able to accomplish their goals through their individual drive.

Fast Feedback

The top performers knew quickly whether or not their efforts worked. The low motivation employees were unsure of their results and unable to gauge their performance.

Accurate Feedback

The top performers received truthful feedback that accurately reflected their personal impact on results. They knew exactly where they stood and received credit when it was due. The low motivation employees were neither recognized for their good work nor penalized for poor performance. The challenge was thus removed from their jobs, as it was of no consequence whether they excelled or failed.

The results of the Harvard Business School study reveal that the nature of the task and feedback ultimately determine the employee’s motivation. The study indicated that these two factors are more important motivators than compensation.

There are several steps a manager can take to apply this information to their workplace:

  • Ensure tasks assigned to employees are clear. The employees should know exactly what is expected of them. These expectations are inherently motivating.
  • Make the connection between the employee’s individual performance and the end result obvious.
  • Teach employees to evaluate their own work. Detail the critical factors of success and provide them with an evaluation form to use. Make it clear that employees are responsible for their own assessment, and that they can perform the evaluation as frequently as they find it necessary.
  • When providing feedback, managers should ask, rather than tell, employees what happened in specific situations, especially if the manager was not an eyewitness. This process is important since customer feedback is often perceived to be inaccurate. Basing feedback on inaccurate information often results in resentment.
  • • Educate employees regarding how to use feedback. If employees fail to understand how feedback relates to their performance, there is no context in which to place it in, and it becomes meaningless.

Excerpt: Motivating Employees: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $17.95 USD


Five Critical Steps to Maximize Performance

Execution: Six Action Steps

Performance Plans Create Results and Maximizes Performance

Objectives Allow Managers to Focus on Obtaining Results

For Additional Information the Author Recommends the Following Books:

Performance Management: The Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series

Planning to Maximize Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Maximizing Financial Performance: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Improving Workplace Interaction: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved


Treat Your Employees Like Customers

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Herb Kelleher–Former CEO Southwest Airlines

“You have to treat your employees like customers… When you treat them right, then they will treat your outside customers right.”

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines)

Individual employees bring their own strengths and weaknesses to a company. It is the responsibility of managers and supervisors to recognize how to capitalize the potential of each employee, so to maximize results and outcomes. Some companies hire employees to fill a position without understanding the actual and often hidden talents and possibilities they bring to their employers. Others make it a point to manage their individuals as the assets they actually are. The great leaders understood how to utilize and harness the strength of the people they employed.

The great leaders understood it was not sufficiently important to select the right people and place them in the right jobs. They continually challenged these individuals to expand their talent and capabilities. One of the legacies of Henry Kaiser (Kaiser) is a spinoff of his engineering department – Kaiser Engineers. On their corporate website, they stated, “We learned that you can’t get fine talent into your organization by simply offering high salaries. You, and the men who work with you, have to build yourselves up to the capacity to tackle bigger and bigger jobs.” [1] This reflects Kaiser’s philosophy and the ability of his company to tackle such as the construction of the Hoover Dam.

Rudolph Giuliani (New York City) reinforced the concept of challenging employees, when he expressed, “Allowing employees to encounter challenges on a regular basis accomplishes two important goals. First it provides experience… Employees who are exposed to challenges and allowed to use their heads to respond to them become better at it. Some managers choose to shelter their staff from all aspects of decision-making… wonder why their employees make so many ‘bad decisions’ or don’t respond to situations the way the boss would. Second, regular challenge invigorates the staff… One quality every performer shared was a sense that their job was more than a simple transaction of time for money. Managers ask a lot from their employees. They want and should expect their staff to feel they’re part of something bigger than themselves, something worthwhile, maybe even important.” [2]

Admiral Hyman Rickover (U.S. Navy) asserted, “As subordinates develop, work should be constantly added so that no one can finish his job. This serves as a prod and a challenge. It brings out their capabilities and frees the manager to assume added responsibilities. As members of the organization become capable of assuming new and more difficult duties, they develop pride in doing the job well. This attitude soon permeates the entire organization. One must permit his people the freedom to seek added work and greater responsibility. In my organization, there are no formal job descriptions or organization charts. Responsibilities are defined in a general way, so that people are not circumscribed. All are permitted to do as they think best and to go to anyone and anywhere for help. Each person then is limited only by his own ability.” [3]

Rickover was renown for his high expectations. “The lure of the new nuclear technology and its strategic importance appealed to many young naval officers. But winning a spot in Rickover’s Navy was not easy: prospective submariners often had to sit before the old curmudgeon on an unbalanced chair whose front legs had been sawed off by several inches. The admiral’s mean streak was legendary. He had no tolerance for defects in men or their work, and he sacked many an officer for being ‘stupid.’ Others, like a young ensign named Jimmy Carter, went on to better things.” [4]

The great leaders set the tone for their companies, and it often reflected their own personal expectations. “‘When I was at Intel, one of the most important values was discipline,’ says venture capitalist John Doerr, who worked for the firm for six years in the 1970s. ‘Andy Grove had no tolerance for people who were late or meetings that ran on without a purpose. It wasn’t that he was a hard ass; it’s just the nature of their business. There’s no room for error.’” [5]

  1. About Kaiser Engineers. History (home.earthlink.net)
  2. Giuliani Rudolph, Leadership (Hyperion, New York, 2002) p. 118
  3.  Admiral Rickover H.C., Doing a Job (management philosophy speech at Columbia University School of Engineering, 1981; CoEvolution Quarterly, 1982)
  4.  Van Voorst Bruce and Duffy Michael, Hyman George Rickover: 1900-1986: They Broke the Mold (Time Magazine, July 21, 1986)
  5.  Eisenberg Daniel and Cooper Ramo Joshua, Andrew Grove: A Survivor’s Tale (Time Magazine, December 29, 1997)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great, What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI, 2011) Read a FREE Chapter.


If You Put Fences Around People, You Get Sheep

Does Compassion and Empathy Have a Role in Leadership?

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Do You Have Faith in Your People?

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

September 3, 2013 at 11:37 am

Recognition Must Be Given Liberally, Frequently and Publicly

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Curtis Carlson, founder of Radisson Hotels, T.G.I. Friday’s and Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Curtis Carlson, founder of Radisson Hotels, T.G.I. Friday’s and Carlson Wagonlit Travel

In some companies, under the premise that they will be perceived more meaningful, rewards and recognitions are given so infrequently as to in fact be meaningless. In order to be effective in generating long-term, concrete results, such rewards, recognitions and motivation must be given liberally, frequently and publicly. They should be fun, uplifting and encourage all members of the workplace.

A critical aspect of leadership is the manager’s role as cheerleader. Leaders need to keep their employees motivated and emotionally prepared to do business in a marketplace fraught with intense competition, rejection and failure.

There are both tangible and intangible aspects of motivation. The intangible aspects of encouraging words and pats on the back, although not insignificant, can be quickly forgotten, while the tangible aspects are visible and durable.

Napoleon discovered long ago that men would walk into combat and perform daring feats for a piece of ribbon and scrap of metal. Managers should learn from this lesson: it’s not the value of a reward or recognition, but what that reward stands for. People will move mountains for the right reward.

The late Curtis Carlson, founder of Radisson Hotels, T.G.I. Friday’s, Carlson Wagonlit Travel and a host of other hospitality companies, was a master motivator. During an interview on CNN’s Pinnacle years ago, he discussed the tangible aspects of motivation.

Carlson started his career as an employee for S&H Green Stamps, a company that used stamps as a retail incentive tool. In his capacity as an employee, Carlson achieved a specific sales goal and was awarded an engraved watch. He observed that everywhere he went his wife made him take off his self-described $20 watch so that she could display it to their friends. He took this lesson with him in his rise to the top of corporate America.

The lesson Carlson learned was the tangible value of motivation. He said that one could give an employee a $20 bonus on Friday, and by Monday it was spent and forgotten. But if one gave them a framed certificate or some other tangible form of recognition, it was there as a constant reminder of their accomplishments.

A very visible example of his practice is seen at T.G.I. Friday’s. A tradition in the company is for the employees to sport colorful vests full of motivational pins from all of the restaurants they’ve worked at. Carlson was a skillful practitioner of tangible motivation: he knew the public display of recognition and accomplishment had an enduring effect long after the individual was honored.

Managers can take a page from the Carlson book and create their own tangible motivation program.

As Carlson learned, the action doesn’t have to be expensive, only tangible, frequent, visible and durable.

People love to be recognized and honored. Most have a wall of items at home or in the office to show the world what they’ve achieved and accomplished. They want others to recognize that they have made a difference.

Many managers will use monetary awards or gifts as incentives—some to a great degree, such as Mary Kay Cosmetics, who awards their top employees pink Cadillacs.

As Carlson learned, money or a disposable gift such as food, a car wash or a trip is quickly forgotten. Instead managers should consider ideas like certificates, pins, coffee cups and other items that will be used and remain visible in the workplace as motivational tools. Some organizations have used items such as gold plated spark plugs as symbols of accomplishment.

Another key to tangible motivation is frequency. Carlson learned that to be effective, recognition must be as frequent and public as possible. Tom Peters discussed this concept in his book, Catching Someone Doing Something Right.

Too often, managers only identify the negative aspects of their employees’ performance. Peters talks about turning this concept around by looking for and immediately recognizing the positives.

The final aspect of motivation is public recognition, which builds self-confidence and self-esteem while fostering team spirit and a strong sense of comradery.

There are many sides and aspects to motivation, but the fun and frivolous aspects of public and tangible motivation do work. Managers will be amazed at the amount of effort their employees will expend to earn a piece of paper or inexpensive knick-knack.


Motivation Is More Than Money

16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

When Motivating Employees, Expectations Are Everything

Excerpt: Motivating Employees (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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