Carrots or Sticks?

Carrots or Sticks?

Almost everything we do in life requires us to work with others. Team dynamics are greatly impacted by the choices of leaders. The predominant ways leaders try to get others to do what they want is to use either carrots or a sticks.

A carrot is a reward that is dangled in front of someone in hopes they will reach for it and move in the direction they want. You might picture an old western scene where the driver of a wagon has a long pole with a carrot hanging from a string, dangled in front of the horse.  We do this with children by giving them an allowance for chores or a bonus for a sales team. Carrots are popular because they tend to work and are considered “positive reinforcement”.

A stick can also be effective. When we take something away or punish someone for something we don’t want them to do, we “hit” them with a stick. The hope is that we won’t have to use the stick very often. When the stick is used it can hurt morale. Most people agree that the stick is less effective than the carrot, but necessary at times.

There is a better way than using either the stick or the carrot. It takes some time to learn this approach, but you get better results and better morale. The approach is to appeal to a person’s motivation. SDI is a great tool for identifying what the driving motivation of each person is and gives us insight into how to relate to them. If you can connect what you want others to do to their motivation, you will see greater results.

For instance, if you want people to come to work on a Saturday you would tailor your request based on their motivation. For the BLUE you may ask them to come and stress the benefits this will have for those we are trying to help and serve. For the RED you might point out how this act of sacrifice will advance the goal and achieve results. For the GREEN you may stress the reasons for the request and the logical facts that make this practical and effective.

If each person is working together according to their motivation the team will be more effective because they will feel satisfied and fulfilled.  This is true whether the team is your children at home, your employees at work or your ministry team at church. God has wired us to be motivated by different things. Good leaders will use sticks and carrots.  Great leaders will use the motivations of the heart.

Here are the steps you need to take to lead through motivations:

  1. Know the motivation if each person on your team. SDI is a great tool for learning together what each person’s motivation is. You can do this with an assessment or use an intuitive approach by watching each person and what is important to each one.
  2. Connect the person’s motivation with the desires result. Help them to see how these connect by communicating with them effectively. You may have to use different words with different people.
  3. Encourage them according to their motivation (how what they are doing relates to my they are doing it).  Your goal  is important but they need to connect with your goal according to their motivation to stay engaged and committed.
  4. Celebrate what was accomplished and how each contributed according to their motivation. Be specific with your celebration emphasizing behaviors that were used and their motivation (BLUE: the empathy you demonstrated by coming in on your day off really enabled the goal to be accomplished and the impacted it had on other people).
  5. If you consistently do this, you will find yourself leading this way naturally and without much effort. Initially it will take increased effort, but the reward of a highly functioning team will make it worthwhile.

If you want to have a highly functioning team that enjoys working together and accomplishes much, try using heart motivation rather than carrots and sticks.  Your team may even start gossiping about the quality of your leadership.

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.