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Are You Craving a Carrot?
By Valarie D. Willis

There used to be a saying that eating carrots was good for your eyesight. I don't know if that is true or not, but there is a concept called "The 24-Carrot Manager" which is good for your business.

Authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton have written a book on the The 24-Carrot Manager. Their philosophy is to "forget about the golden handcuffs. Carrots - in the form of rewards and recognition- make it hard for employees to pull up roots and move to another company."

The carrot is a metaphor for reward and recognition. As leaders in organizations, we have to recognize and appreciate our employees. One would think that this is a simple act that leaders could easily do.

Research indicates that, as simple as it may be, leaders don't do enough of it. A simple act of appreciation and recognition for those employees who excel in their work can reap huge benefits for organizations.

Employees who feel genuinely appreciated will work harder, be more committed and have higher levels of engagement. Gallup studies indicate that, "Recognition and praise ranked fourth among the 12 dimensions that consistently correlated with those workgroups that have higher employee retention, higher customer satisfaction, higher productivity, and higher profits."

I would call that a pretty good return on your investment of appreciation. Consider how different your organization could be if you could just increase the levels of commitment in people. The power to do that is within you, should you choose to accept it.

Recognition and appreciation isn't just a "touchy/feely" act. Kouzes and Posner in their book, The Leadership Challenge, tell us that "encouragement is a form of feedback; wonderful, personal feedback." Feedback is important so that people know how they are doing and if they are on the right track or not. Feedback impacts our motivational levels.

In a study by A. Bandura and D. Cervone, in "Self-Evaluative and Self-Efficacy Mechanisms Governing the Motivational Effects of Goal Systems," they discovered persons who received both goals and feedback on the goals were more motivated than those who did not. So just giving your staff the goals to hit isn't enough.

They need feedback along the way, and they need encouragement to continue on. They need to hear your voice, and they need a few carrots along the way.

Suppose I was driving from the East coast to the West coast and imagine I saw no road signs along the way. How would I know that I was headed in the right direction and that I was on course? I wouldn't know unless something told me.

The people that work for you won't know that they are on course unless you tell them. Driving endlessly would make me tired, but knowing that I just crossed the state line of Texas and I only have a few more states to go adds fuel and energy.

How can you add fuel and energy to your organization? How much farther could your team go, and what would happen to the levels of engagement in your area if you just gave a little more appreciation and recognition? Think of carrots as that fuel and recognition; dole them out freely, but in a meaningful way.

There are many ways to recognize and celebrate employees. Great companies go out of their way to find new and different ways to recognize and celebrate. DHL recently partnered with Major League Baseball to recognize their employees. They have set aggressive service level goals and launched a campaign called "I'm On It."

When employees go above and beyond, they can be nominated to become a recipient of one of the DHL rewards. DHL has set the goal, gives feedback and recognizes those employees who are consistent in excelling behaviors.

DHL has a "Delivery Person of the Month Award" and an "Above and Beyond Award". Individuals are nominated for these awards, and recent winners received tickets to the World Series 2006 including airfare and hotel.

DHL has also partnered in the past with the Olympics team in Italy and the local sports team, the Dolphins. This is just one example that DHL uses to recognize and reward individuals. They have a very robust reward program.

Don't miss the opportunity to engage your employees and to create an appreciative culture. As the Hay Group discovered, "Your employees start everyday with an extraordinary amount of energy, but the amount of 'discretionary effort' that people apply to their jobs varies tremendously from employee to employee." I believe that part of that variance comes from how the employee is being recognized by his or her leader.

People are craving carrots - carrots in all sizes. We would love to hear how you are rewarding and recognizing your group.

Let's hear from you.

Copyright© 2006 Valarie D. Willis

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