In my last blog post I talked about giving your team clear expectations so that they know how to do their best for you. This is the second part of that thought process – being clear about rewards and consequences.

Some people are motivated purely by the knowledge of a job well done. Some people are not. The way to make sure you get the best out of everybody is to have in place rewards and consequences – however simple – so that it is not only the perfectionists on your team who perform well for you.

Most small businesses cannot afford to give their staff bonuses, or not on a regular basis, and very few employers want to go down the route of formal grievance processes every time somebody messes up. There are far simpler ways of achieving better team performance.

Rewards can look like:

  • Saying thank you and well done
  • Saying thank you and well done in front of the rest of the team
  • A bottle of wine for the person who performed best on a certain task
  • A luxury box of chocolates for the person who hits target first
  • A social media post celebrating someone who has gone the extra mile
  • Passing on good client feedback to the team members who helped with the project
  • Replying to client feedback copying in the relevant team members saying “of course I couldn’t have done it without these guys”

On the other side of the coin, consequences can look like:

  • A phone call to ask what went wrong
  • An email asking for three learning points the team member will take forward to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again
  • More regular one to one catch ups with a particular team member to get to the root of a problem
  • A focused chat with a team member to find out if they are unhappy and what it is that they want from the role

Consequences are not intended to shame and punish. Consequences are intended to make it clear when something is a problem and to try to ensure that problem does not arise again. The title of this post is a clich√© but it is one which puts people off using consequences as they don’t want to use a “stick”. Rightly so. Nobody performs better when beaten, physically or mentally. Rather than thinking of consequences as a stick, think of them as opening the curtains. Shedding light on a situation. Providing clarity. Nobody can perform when fumbling in the dark.

Equally, thinking of rewards as “carrots” is infantilising. You are not dangling a treat so your team members will toddle towards you enraptured. You are making it clear that you appreciate their efforts and you understand that they are adults whose focus and time are valuable. You would like them to put more focus and time into your business, so you will recognise that effort when it is made.

When the only reward is payment, people will do the bare minimum to ensure they get paid. That does not make them bad people – that makes them normal people with other stuff to think about and their own issues to tackle.

When the only consequence is you clearing up the mess, people won’t bother to avoid the same problem in the future. Mainly because without any consequence they probably won’t really recognise there was a problem in the first place.

It is so important to be clear about what will happen when things go well and when things go badly. Whilst you are considering this process, remember to include yourself in it as well. When something goes wrong, check in with yourself. Are you doing okay? How can that problem be avoided in the future?

When something goes right? Buy yourself that bottle of Champagne.

Helen Calvert
Coach and Director of Clear Day
February 2021