With experience or being around a long time, you get to see lots of programs come and go. One of those programs that seem to change frequently are incentive programs. Wikipedia puts, “an incentive program as a formal scheme used to promote or encourage specific actions or behavior by a specific group of people during a defined period of time. Incentive programs are particularly used in business management to motivate employees, and in sales to attract and retain customers.” Can you think of some? I know quite a few (well, lots). It is one of those tools to help the organization to instill a continuous improvement in performance. Think back on those programs, did they work? How did they make you feel?
When I look over the many incentive programs that I have experience with there are some common themes of those that have been successful.
- The incentive program was well thought out. Answering the questions of what behavior are we going to reward. That behavior has to be above the expectation of all employees. Going after the top of the class. Hopefully inspiring others to what to reach the top.
- The program awarded past performance. The program has a timeframe that is long enough to help develop a better picture of a sustained performance.
- The reward is timely, specific and impactful. What is the award that is given? Debate around money, plaques, pat on the back and public recognition need to be considered before implementation. Setting the award will be critical in how well the program is received by the employees.
Let’s face it, this is a touchy area that managers have to navigate carefully. I have seen many a program start off with the best intentions, but fail shortly after implementation. Why? The list is long. The critical ones that pop up quickly are the incentive program is not focused on top performance. Many programs are focused on getting “all” to do what their expectations are normally (attendance). Some programs are set up that the employees can work the system to be eligible for. This has a huge effect on the employee base, as they will “see” the gaming going on and the program could demotivate many folks. Lastly, the award has to be meaningful. Some expects say that money should not be a motivator, that just the recognition should be enough.
Over the last couple of years, I am seeing some new incentive programs that will be interesting to see how well they will work. Those are the incentive programs for lowering health insurance costs. Those particular incentives to be healthy. Helping add money to the flex spending accounts for employees that are not overweight. For employees that attend health seminars or complete a company sponsored information session. There are many examples. With the raising cost of health care, these incentive programs are popping up everywhere. Is it too early to tell if they are working? Are they fair? Time will tell.. I know for me, I got healthier by increasing my exercise and diet, so that I could get some additional funds to help offset my health care costs.
Do you think incentive programs work? As a manager, I know I spent more time dealing with the incentive program than maybe the organization planned. Please share the good, bad and ugly…
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There are many things that I have learned over the years that I have shared here and one on one. The one item that everyone always agrees on is if you measure it, it will get attention and get done. I was helping out an organization the other day and we were discussing that fact on some employee feedback that they received. The leadership team was struggling with the all of their measurable matrix were not to goal. Employee feedback were pointing that the goals are unrealistic. For me, the underlying problem that they were trying to address was the employee base felt like their was a disconnect between the workers and management. How many times have you heard that? How many times have you said that?
Throughout my career I have encountered that same feeling of disconnect. It was either with me and my upper management. Or the feedback was coming from my team to me. It happens to the best of us. There are times that everyone is too busy to be paying attention to the little things that really matter. Whatever the excuse is. All you need to do is listen and act. When I am faced with connecting (or reconnecting), I remind myself of those little items that matter.
My list of items that matter! My 3 S’s if you will.
- Stand up and own your mistakes. There are times that you will make a mistake. I have yet to meet that perfect person that has not made a mistake. How you react to the mistake will either have you lose credibility with your team or win them over. Yes, it takes a strong person to admit to their mistakes. Being vulnerable will make you strong.
- Share your time. I know we all think that we are busy. Your are their leader, you have to make your team a priority. Give of your time as much as possible. Time is what you make of it. I am not saying that you need to schedule “time” with your team. I am saying that you need to be approachable and available. Another term I liked to use is management by walking around. Get out of the office. Talk to you team (in the hall, their workstation, café, networking events and everywhere they are).
- Share your thoughts. Communication is key and sharing what you know (what you can) will go a long way to connecting to your team. Start a discussion or put out a topic that the team can really relate to. Once people start talking, they start connecting. Watching your team getting together and sharing will have a huge impact on the work.
When I first was leading my team, I was pretty good at getting amazing results. I wasn’t sure why? It took me sometime to understand that I was really connecting to them on a personal and team level. That connecting came easy to me. I wanted to connect, no matter what. It was just part of my DNA, so I just did it naturally. I really started to understand the workings, when I was given the opportunity to do something that I had no knowledge of. I was overwhelmed with learning the job and was a little slow on connecting to the team. I realized quickly, that I was not following my normal operating procedures. Reflecting back, made me hone in those 3 S’s…
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How best do you learn? When I am coaching my hockey players, I like to use demonstrations of what is expected. Learning from examples are probably the easiest way to get your point across. I learn better from both good and bad examples. The bad examples are much easier to point out the mistake. When it comes to collaboration and leadership… All we have to do is watch the news on any given night and we get to see how “NOT” to do things. Collaboration is totally necessary when you want to be a good leader. You have to be able to get your team together and work for a common goal. Something that our leadership in Washington, DC failed to learn or chooses not to do. So, we will use their example as to not follow when we are doing our own work.
When you think of working together for a common goal (minus Washington), everyone has to really want to meet the goal by accomplishing to their best of their ability by working together. You don’t have to be best buds or like each other. You just have to check your personal agenda at the door and get to getting stuff done, well. As the leader of a team, it is necessary for you to set the example of how the team will work together (or not – in the case of Washington).
I have always learned more from failure than from success. Failure means that I have to take a deep, hard and long look into the overall failure. I usually learn a lot about what to do better, next time. So, use the failures of our government on how they collaborate and learn from them.
- Check your agenda at the door.
- Work together for the common goal.
- Be a part of the solution, not pointing out what is not working. Best to offer complete solutions rather than your own one-sided view.
- Listen to each other. It is amazing how one persons half-baked idea will pair up with another persons idea. Making it a complete idea… Other folks may call this a “third alternative” solution.
- Celebrate as a team. Not this side or that side of the team. The complete team! Getting great work done, takes everyone.
Just remember, you can control yourself and set the example of how things should and could go. Don’t wait for someone else. Or you can have the same overall effect that our government leaders are having on their collaborating together – nothing. You want to be successful? Well, you have a great example of how not to do it!
How many bad things have you encountered along the journey of life? Lose your job, get into a car accident, break-up with your partner or maybe just feel like whatever you touch goes wrong? It is part of life. I think everyone has had something happen that just did not go the way they had hoped or wanted. It all comes down to how you reacted to those situations. “Do you turn lemons into lemonade?”
There are many folks that come out of those life’s disasters with refreshed spirit to grown and flourish. How do they make that happen? Focusing on hope, faith and resilience to make the most of the worst of situations. Here are just a few ideas that I have used to help me make a bad situation better the next time around.
- Face the brutal truth and get creative: When things don’t go well you have to face the truth. Sit down and examine the ways. When you are at work and a project is failed, you do a post-mortem. Do a personal one. Be honest with yourself. Don’t pretend that nothing is wrong. Denial doesn’t help move forward. Once you recognize the problem, then you can focus on doing some creative problem solving. If you are a person that just does the same old thing for the same situation, it is doubtful that you will get a different result next time. Think outside of your normal solutions, get creative.
- Avoid guilt and shame: I know I have had my moments that didn’t feel proud of something I did. If you are like most folks, those memories are still stuck clearly in your head. Can’t dwell on the past, time to let it go. Mistakes happen and they are okay. Sometimes it is good to laugh at those mistakes and have a little bit of fun with them.
- Get and stay positive: Find your “happy” place… Having an optimistic outlook can definitely help keep your focus moving forward. Being positive is all the time is not easy. You will have moments when some negativity will creep in. Just make sure that the negativity is only there for a brief moment. Think of all of the totally negative nelly and nancy’s you know, do you really want to be one of them?
What helps you make the best of a bad situation? Please share some of your thoughts!
I have been going to the gym close to my house for about 3 years, only taking a break or two for hip replacement and knee surgery. I really enjoy going and getting the muscles fired up. It really gives me some pep for the rest of the day. This past week, I doing my workouts, I have been listening to the personal trainers and their clients interactions. Back when I first started at the gym, I decided to use a personal trainer to help me navigate what exercises I should do due to the injuries I have encountered over the years. I did not want to undo any of the work that the doctors have done! It was a great time. Since we are in less than two months of the new year, I thought why not send this week listening to what excuses clients told their trainers…
Here are a few of the excuses as told by the client to their personal trainer.
- I wish I could find a time that is more convenient for me. Everyone is busy. If you are going to the gym to get in shape, lose weight or just keep fit – you have a reason and it should be priorities in with the list of all of those other time-consuming items. For me, it was getting up early and forcing myself to go in before work. My trainer was open to being an early riser as well. Time is what you make of it!
- It has been a two weeks. Why only 8 pounds? 8 pounds seems pretty good to me. I guess watching the folks on the Biggest Loser has folks setting some lofty expectations. The trainer was 8 lbs is better by 2 lbs than what we discussed at the beginning. Set realistic expectations!
- I don’t know what happened. I can’t image why I gained weight. Not sure why? The log that you were supposed to fill out was empty. Maybe if you did the work that was required of you, you probably would understand why. Do the work!
- I only cheated a little bit. You said to celebrate my milestone. This one was pretty good. I overheard the celebration and believe me, I don’t think the trainer said for an evening of pizza, beer and ice cream was the ticket. Celebrate success, but do it within reason.
- You just don’t understand me. I am fat and I can not do this stuff. Getting frustrated and providing excuses is a why of life. If you want to turn your situation around, then you have to be the one to do that. A personal trainer is there to help facilitate that change within the gym and eating habits. Helping to motivate you to get to “your” goals. Take the necessary steps, yourself. Use the help that is being provided.
- I can’t do it! Can’t means you don’t want to try. Give it a go, you may not be great at first, but you wanted be great without trying.
When I look at this list, I see the same things that when I was managing people, I used to get from time to time. The same advice I applied to those situations can easily be applied to just about everything in life. Set realistic expectations, make time, do the work, celebrate wins within reason, “you” control the effort and never say “can’t”.
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