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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, New To Management
, Leading Teams
, performance management
, team dynamics
How many times have you been involved in team building exercises? When someone says we are going to do a team building activity, what are your first thoughts? For the most part, I bet everyone is thinking, here we go again… I have seen data that says about 65% or higher feel they are a waste of time and money. About 25% thought they are effective with the right exercise. For me, I lean towards team building activities can be effective if we put the right exercise with what the teams needs are…
You have to know what you want to accomplish, so that you can insure the right results. There are three major categories – see below.
- Recreational Team Building: Change the way people feel (to entertain, re-energize, socialize, teach and learn new skills)
- Educational Team Building: Change the way people feel and think (to gain awareness of needs, to add knowledge, to understand new ways to look at old or familiar concepts differently)
- Developmental Team Building: Change the way people feel, think, and behave (by increasing positive functional behavior, by improving interpersonal relationships)
We all know that there are struggles with team building. So, why do a lot of team building programs not work?
- Lack of reflection = this defeats awareness. Think back to your last team building exercise, do you all talk about what happened, what could have gone better, what you learned and how it can apply back at the office?
- The presence of resistance = if you go into the exercise with not wanting to do it - you are defeating intent. Going through the motions is not going to help you learn and grow.
- Roadblocks to moving forward = with any team building exercise, it all goes back to how everything applies back at the office. If there are roadblocks that exist to moving forward, you are not going to be successful.
Making team building effective is not easy. How can you make team building work for you.
- Spend time really evaluating your team for its level of teamwork and needs. Doing team building to put a check in your teams objectives is not going to work. If you can’t self assess your team, ask the team or ask your key customers what their impressions are.
- Pick the right activity for your assessment of what you want to work on.
- Set up the team with the what, who and why of team building… Make sure that your team is prepared to participate.
- Get someone to facilitate the activity. You should be in the activity with them, not looking over them.
- Reflect at the end.. Ask those open-ended questions, what happened, what could have been better, how does this apply back at the office and so on. Make sure to circle back on the what and why’s that you attempted to accomplish in the first place.
- Document and share the results. Always good to capture the reflections and share them with your team. Especially on those items that the team wants to take back to the office.
I have done a lot of team building over the years. Some where really good exercises with some really good results. Others were not so good. Team building should not be a “here we go again” first thought. Team building should be exciting and the team wants to do.
I know what people are probably thinking. How can you get leadership lessons from coaching 3/4 year olds? I believe you can learn from every situation that you are in. You just have to be willing to look at the complete experience. Or maybe you are thinking, are you going to compare adults to 3/4 years olds? Not really. There are some basics that do apply in every situation. First let me set the stage… I have been coaching youth sports most of my adult life. I love coaching! I have not done any coaching for a few years (hip replacement surgeries). Most of my coaching career has followed the ages of my children. Those children are now adults over 25. Most of the coaching that I had done for the past 10 years has been with high school age hockey players. My daughter sends me a text that she has signed up my grand daughter for soccer and the league is short coaches (she volunteered me if they don’t get another parent volunteer). I was excited to coach my grand daughter’s team. Six full of energy three and four year olds that have never played soccer before. Of course, if you have seen 3/4 year old soccer – you would call it bee hive soccer (everyone going after the ball (honey) together). With mixed emotions, our season is coming to a close. We have two games left…
What are the leadership lessons?
- Plan with flexibility: Since I had not coached that age group in a very long time, I had to spend sometime learning what I should do. With all of my other coaching gigs, I had practice plans that were designed to help teach players how to become better at their craft. Since the players were older, some of the basics were already there. With this age group, you have to definitely have patience and keep a positive outlook when things don’t go well. Planning with flexibility means keep some extra stuff in your pocket for when the item you wanted to work on, is not working. You have to react quickly and in a positive manner.
- Teach, demonstrate, watch and follow-up: When coaching a drill, you have to not only descript what you want them to do, you show them as well. Let them try it… Make the slight modifications to get them close to what you wanted. Praise them! I know that maybe you don’t have to spend much time in the teach and demonstrate side when you are dealing with adults. You do have to monitor and follow-up!
- Patience: Remember why you are there. You are there to have fun and teach them some of the skills to help them with soccer in the future. Mistakes are going to happen, probably more than you think. You just have to be patient and keep encouraging them to success. With my team’s players – they want to please me and their parents. They look for the smiles, thumbs up and high fives – to them that is great stuff. I had to learn that the first practice. Soccer is a game of not using your hands. We talked about it! We corrected the situation when it happened. After the 20th time, I was losing my patience. Next practice, we put something in their hands to keep away from using their hands with the soccer ball.
- Have fun: For me, having fun is in everything that I do. With the 3/4 year olds – they only know to have fun. Being competitive is just starting to happen with some of them. So, you have to watch out for how they react to success and disappointment. Keeping them focused on the fun aspect! The one thing I can count on, is after the game – they move onto the next part – getting their snacks and coming home. No one player is sad. They are all happy! To me, that is some good stuff.
As you can see many of the lessons learned can be applied to every coaching/leadership situation. I have to say it was fun coaching those kids. They are a handful, but it is a fun handful.
After spending most of my working adult life inside a large company, you get to witness many things. Some would probably call them the good, bad and ugly. How many articles, blog posts and conversations have you been a part of that talks about “you must innovate” to continue to succeed? Can you really innovate in a large company? If you are in a large company or have worked in a large company, think about that for a minute. Pause… What is your definition of truly innovating? Take out the tweaks to what you are already doing. I would like you to think about those innovations that transform what the company is doing. Now, is there innovation happening?
I think it can happen, but it must be stressed and discussed at almost every turn. From my experience, many large companies have put in a lot of “systems” to insure that decisions or budget or product changes or whatever are following some version of “red” tape. Necessary? Yes, to a point. I feel that those “systems” cause many of the employee base to shy away from innovating. Why?
- Fear of making a mistake. We all are told to “think outside of the box” or take a risk, but with many in a large company, make a mistake and you could be the person that is at the bottom of the performance curve. Taking risks and making mistakes can not be punished. All you have to think about is the mistake that invented the post-it note (the glue that just did not stick as well as it should have). I don’t want to tell you how many times I witnessed that risk taker get singled out for not performing like the others. The first time it happens in a department, risk taking goes straight out the window. No words can bring it back.
- Setting up “innovation programs” don’t work. Let me clarify the “program” a bit. These are those programs that have a sponsor, list of ideas, committees that review the ideas, approval processes, tracking approved projects and rewarding those “successful” innovators. Placing red tape completely around innovation. That does not really get innovation or does it? From my experience it just gives you tweaks to what you already have. Usually those that are administering the “innovation system” are not entrepreneurial spirits but process certified folks. I would argue that many employees will shy away from “red” tape.
- Actions speak louder than words. Ever sit in a department update meeting and count the number of times the word “innovation” was used? Try it in your next large department meeting. Makes you want to get going on innovating. Then off you go! Once down that path. How did it go? With most large companies, it was a painful process. If you “really” wanted to fight city hall all the way – you would be exhausted and tell your co-workers about your experience. Actions are real (and in most cases shared with the rest).
What does it take for a large company to innovate? Right off the top there truly needs to be within the culture of the organization of entrepreneurial spirit. Thinking and acting like an entrepreneur. Time must be given within the daily order of business. If the “day job” is all time consuming, how in the world will people get to be thinking or working on something innovative. If you must have a process, make sure that it is very lean. Take out the many review committees, long templates and death by data analysis. Keep it simple (stupid). Lastly, reward every for their attempts at innovation. There is success in failure (you just have to look). I would say, it is better to focus on those that don’t or are not working on innovation. Make that a priority in their professional development plan. If you want that organization to be innovative… You must innovate your organization away from what they are doing today.
, Decision making
, Leading Teams
, performance management