Makes sense. If you want a donkey, or an employee, to move in one direction, just dangle a tasty carrot ahead of him in the direction of that goal and he’ll move toward it. Adding a little prod with the stick from behind entices him to keep moving on that path with alacrity.
It makes sense, that is, until you watch that donkey gallop passionately toward the barn or see your bright-eyed employee race eagerly after some goal she really wants. Then, author and clinical psychologist Paul Marciano points out, all your recognition-and-reward motivational management theories trot right out the window. Because donkeys and people get tired of running eventually.
To provide business leaders with a more productive motivational approach, Mercer County Community College invited Marciano to speak on his latest book “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work — Build a Culture of Employee Engagement With the Principles of RESPECT” on Wednesday, April 20, at 8 a.m. at MCCC in West Windsor.
Marciano has spent the last 20 years examining and testing business’s popular motivational trends, and has created several effective programs encompassing the most proven practices. He now lives on the same Hunterdon County farm where he grew up and his parents raised horses. His grandfather was Ludwig Bemelmans, who wrote and illustrated the children’s classic “Madeline.”
After earning his bachelor’s in psychology from Davidson College in l988 Marciano entered Yale University, earning his master’s and Ph.D. in behavioral modification. He returned to Davidson to instruct in psychology, then moved on to lecture at Princeton University and later shared his talents at several consulting firms.
In 2003 Marciano took the entrepreneurial plunge and founded the human resource consulting firm Whiteboard LLC to help companies take best advantage of their personal capital. Reflective of his own personal style, Marciano in the same year founded ColorMeCompany.com., a response to his goddaughter’s gift of a hand-colored birthday card. Marciano took this basic urge to create and invited children to send in their whimsical artworks, which are placed on cotton T-shirts and sold to connoisseurs everywhere. Marciano retains rule of this firm as CCO (chief coloring officer). A professed Christian company, ColorMe donates 10 percents of all its profits to children’s charities.
The best way to motivate employees, Marciano says, is for managers and employees to treat their employees, their fellow workers, with respect. “I don’t quite understand why so many find this so difficult,” he says.
Marciano cites one client who had paid him to boost his productivity. “The man doesn’t say hello to his employees,” Marciano says. “He doesn’t even acknowledge their existence.” The message may be simple, but its effects are profound.
Aretha Franklin and Paul Marciano are in many ways spelling out the same need. For Marciano workplace respect entails:
— Recognizing an employee’s contributions;
— Empowering them with the tools and resources to best do their jobs;
—Supporting them with feedback, coaching and mentoring;
— Partnering encouragement to develop collaborative relationships;
—Expectations that are attainable, set clearly, and put forth as interesting challenges;
—Consideration and concern expressed by employers;
—Trust in your workers’ skills and judgment.
“Of course,” say most employers and human resource people. It’s only logical. A company’s employees are its greatest asset. They must be set up in an inviting atmosphere to be most productive.
The problem is in establishing this culture of employee respect, and continuous active engagement is something few managers are trained to do. “Most people achieve leadership rank because they have performed one task or project very well, continuously,” says Marciano. “Tenure, hard work, and learning to turn the wrench really well are what get folks that promotion.” Then once they arrive in the manager’s chair, they have no concept and no training in motivating others to perform their jobs.
Project presenting. The instinctive role of most managers is to act as dictator. Things need doing, so executives merely make commands for others to carry out. Perhaps somewhere along the line they pick up the proper “employee concerned” lingo and instead of saying “I delegate you to do this,” they replace it with “I empower you to do this.”
Alas, they are kidding no one. It’s still a command from on high. The employee still feels the full weight of his paycheck and tenure resting on his immediate, if grudging, performance.
Marciano suggests another approach that may unleash more of that employee’s passionate desire to gallop along the way, rather than unwillingly plod. Before assigning one project, take full scope of all those things that require handling. Call the employee in and discuss which of the three tasks she might best undertake. Then further converse with her about what tools she will require, what challenges may come up, who might best be of aid to her, etc. A little respect, a little working with equals. Once given her head, the employee may just surprise the boss with her insight and capability.
Praise packages. Simple acknowledgement of others’ good work is probably the most powerful motivator in all business. Marciano once suggested to supervisors that when an employee had performed some task particularly well, they should put a little sticky note on the person’s desk or computer saying “Good job on the XXX, Ben. Thanks” and sign it. Later he polled all those who had received these little praise missives. Only one had thrown it away. The rest had saved them in some special place. Simple. Easy. Very powerful.
Praising productively, however, does take a bit of thought. Ideally, acknowledgement should be a double-edged sword. The individual who performed must be thanked, and others should hear about it. You may take your helper out to dinner and lavish praise on him for an hour, but if you neglect to credit him in the final report, he’ll still bristle.
Among Marciano’s praise rules is the one about making your acknowledgements immediate and specific. A week after the task, too much water has passed under the bridge. And “good job Harry, on that thing you did” leaves Harry at best mystified, or more likely, resentful of your ignorance of his labors.
Marciano also suggests being physically close to the individual when passing your recognition. When possible, a thanks with the hand on the shoulder beats an E-mail. Finally, be enthusiastic. Perfunctory praise is, well, perfunctory.
In high school Marciano worked as a night janitor in an office building. This was back in the days when everybody smoked and each office had its own ashtray. One worker, he noted, had chosen a sporting trophy as her ash receptacle and the thing was drenched with black, sticky tar. On a whim, Marciano took the trophy and spent the time to scour the whole thing clean and polish it all up. “The next night I found a note of thanks and several candies for me in the trophy’s bowl,” Marciano says. “The lady never put ashes in it again.”