Not about carrots; Forget the stick!

As a leader, the need to deliver results is an all too present pressure that leads to ineffective management strategies. This applies not just to business situations, but in your volunteer and family realm as well. Often, without intention a leader will default into techniques that they know cause frustration and, if used long-term, lead to team dysfunction. In the business world this can be  implied reprimands; as a volunteer leader, dubious techniques like changing the start time for the perpetually late; and as a parent, yelling.

Research consistently shows that neither the carrot nor the stick are effective long-term strategies. So what is a leader supposed to do?

Simple answer, you’re going to need two solutions. The short-term solution to meet the need to produce results. But you must intend to quickly leave this method behind. This is where you’re going to have to change to a strategy of attention. Like any situation, the solution isn’t formulaic and what works for one is not going to work for another. BUT be creative!

Let me share an early parenting example, rather than a work or volunteer example. My children have approved this message!

I have two children; the eldest, a son, and the youngest, a daughter. The son reacts relatively quickly and well to what can be called “subtractive” parenting techniques. What is also known as consequence parenting – you’ve been asked to complete this task and didn’t, as your parent I’m now going to remove one of your privileges until such time that this task is complete. As a teenager, I simply have to mimic a cell phone to receive instant action.

For my daughter a statement like that is the equivalent to throwing down the gauntlet. Depending on my perspective, this can be seen as defiance or determination. Either way, when she was younger I very quickly learned that I could not use the same tactics. One day, in a fit of frustration and brilliance I developed the clothes peg technique. For my daughter, this was highly effective.

BUT, long-term neither method is effective. As a parent, I am to teach and instruct not manipulate and coerce. Considering the maturity and capacity of the children, they were effective techniques at  the time and did allow me to achieve short-term results. Honestly, I still default to subtractive methods when time is short and need is high.

Yet, with careful attention, I’m happy to report that both children are pretty good at self-regulation and working toward achieving familial goals. Together we:

  • discuss the goals, and adjust as is possible – as parents we still have some realities that constrain our ability to adjust to the kids wants.
  • constantly re-examine and re-evaluate how we achieve our goals. This can require reassignment as well as acknowledgement that capacities may have been under or over represented. Leadership investment is also checked to see if it matches what is reasonable, and is adjusted.
  • celebrate and remember to live, because sometimes perspective is what is needed!

So how do you tell if you are being an effective leader? How do you evaluate if you’re using an effective long-term approach? Currently my alert is when I find myself using the words “technique” or “method” when it comes to motivation.

What are your thoughts? I’d love help in thinking this out further!

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