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Lessons in Leadership: Rewarding Extra Effort

By Dr Paul E Adams |

Winning companies focus on rewarding stars. A. Pearson, PepsiCo

Remember how proud you felt the last time you won an award or citation. Most likely, it was a cherished moment. Many of us save our awards, citations, and those special photos with important people, creating our own shrine- perhaps to the dismay of our spouses. Regardless of what we were praised for, we felt terrific at the moment. And our shrine allows us to continue to feast on the feeling of importance and recognition.

Are you employees any different from you? They collect bowling, softball, and golf trophies with the same eagerness you hang citations and excellence awards. So my friendly entrepreneur, why not apply a simple technique of leadership and figure a way to pump up the egos of your employees. And be surprised by a burst of employee energy.

Making heroes of employees is common practice with many well-managed progressive companies. They have employee of the month awards, special parking spots for the latest company heroes, salesperson of month, team awards for productivity, teams awards for safety, awards for the least number days missed, and special bonus personal days. There are unlimited possibilities, and the effective leader knows how to use awards to boost moral, productivity, and the profits of the business.

If you are thinking such practices are coddling workers, you are misinformed. We love to be recognized. Doubt me? If you have a letter published by your local paper, my guess is that you will show it to everyone- and if you get unsolicited comments- great ego food.

Regardless of all the hype about dollars driving employees to get the brass ring, recognition is a far stronger motivator- and a more sustained one. Recognition is all part of acceptance and feeling part of the gang. We want to be the person others admire. Such feelings are priceless, and not easy to come by. We want to be liked, we want to be popular, and we want our phone to ring with invitations. The wise entrepreneur is aware of such strong inner feelings and universal motivations and taps into his or her employee s emotional needs to encourage a winning attitude with and the extra mile.

The problem is how you establish yardsticks to reward and fuss over the winner of the hour. With sales persons, it is easy, quotas, number of new customers; dollar sales volume performance is easy to measure. Not so with other employees. How do you measure attitude, taking extra care with the task, having a smile for the customer, keeping the workspace clean and showing up in time. Setting standards takes thought. But you will discover setting standards are important for the success of your business.

Can you imagine trying to measure the performance of your spouse- not so easy. But in a marriage, you do have standards, standards of trust, loyalty, responsibility, and so on. You know what the standards are, your feelings tell you. It is somewhat similar in a small business with limited employees when you know them well or you should. I recall a small business a retail store, that if the store achieved a given sales figure for the month, the owner took all the employees and spouses to dinner. He believed in building teamwork-and it worked.

As you think about a possible reward, system- be careful to avoid any sense of favoritism- it will stir up jealousy and anger. Try to structure a reward system that allows everyone a chance of being some kind of hero.

Another approach is to use family and personal occasions, such an anniversary, a graduation, or a birthday. Use what ever will create a feeling that your business is a great place to work. You will have a more success business when your employees echo, I like it here, and I want to keep my job.

And if you can't think of standards to reward right away, start practicing the showing of appreciation, try: how are you, thank you, please, and nice work. Remember we all crave to be noticed regardless of our financial or social position. Rewarding extra effort is a simple tool that will put dollars in your pocket.

If you think your only responsibility to maximize your employee s motivation and productivity is with a paycheck, you are living in 19th century capitalism, in Russia, there is a saying you pretend to pay us, we pretend to work. While you are not pretending to pay your employees, some may be pretending to work. Think of it this way, Inspiring those who are part of your business to go the extra mile is not coddling, not a touchy feely" philosophy, but pure self interest capitalism. Getting more from your employees - using recognition and rewarding excellence are tools of good business.

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