Employee Rewards Can Be Motivational

Recently, I came across a book I haven’t opened in a long time. It’s called 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, by Bob Nelson. The book (which was updated in 2012 to 1501 Ways to Reward Employees) lists a variety of ways to use employee rewards as a way to recognize achievement. These include no cost ideas such as one-minute praises and bravo cards, to low cost ideas like bringing the person a bagged lunch for a week from a gourmet sandwich shop. It also lists ideas for more expensive rewards, such as trips, dinner for two, and various types of gift certificates.

In my experience, how the employee rewards are delivered is critical. If the praise isn’t heartfelt and the recognition is done to fulfill the requirements of a weekly recognition program, the staff will not feel appreciated. It won’t feel authentic and they will grow to resent it.

Employee rewards must be authentically delivered and heartfelt.So before you launch a recognition program, be sure to clearly define the scope of the program, and the types of behavior you want to recognize and why. Are you doing this just because you heard from others that employee recognition is important? Or are you doing this to try to shift behavior, create a new culture, and/or work towards a long term organizational goal?

Ken Blanchard has written a great deal about the subject of leadership and building high performing teams. Praise needs to be authentic and heartfelt. Don’t praise just to go through the motions. In his book, The One Minute Manager (recently updated), he talks about catching people off guard doing something right. Then giving them praise at that moment. Those are the “one-minute praises”. Don’t wait until the staff gets together for a team meeting and then give the praise. It will come off as not authentic and something the boss is doing to prove what a great boss he or she is. The staff will resent it.

On the other hand, if it’s appropriate to give praise in a public setting such as a staff meeting, do so, but make sure you gave the individual a one-minute praise beforehand, even if it was days before. The public recognition will be an additional and more well-received reward; especially when the behavior being recognized fits within the scope of the rewards and recognition program you’ve established.

All that being said, here are some unique ideas I came across in the book, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees:

  • Close a few hours early one day and take everyone to a shopping mall. Give each person $25 to spend and tell them to gather together in one hour. Then share and compare what each person bought with their $25 and why they chose the items(s) they did. This could be instead of a holiday or sales bonus.
  • Hold occasional fun contests. These should be planned by the managers, not the staff. If staff members are assigned on a rotating basis, it becomes another chore or work-related task, not a fun event. Contests can include St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween costume contests, or themed pot luck dish competitions. Rewards can be cash and/or gift certificates for restaurants, movie theater tickets, sporting events, etc.
  • Celebrate a Day of Excellence once a year with fun learning activities for all employees. Or let each staff person choose a day during the year that is their “special day”. Managers then surprise that person with fun activities during lunch or late in the afternoon of that day.

Let us know your thoughts about employee rewards programs and any unique ideas you have implemented in your organization.

Use Servant Leadership to Feed Your Passions

Every time I sit down to write an article I get writer’s block -where to find my inspiration. Some people say, just start writing. Eventually, something will develop into a coherent article. Or focus on your passions and see what develops. The problem is that there are several things I am passionate about and they don’t seem interrelated – servant leadership, helping organizations create positive employee cultures, helping women succeed, designing and implementing online marketing strategies, social media marketing, smart phone apps, technology that increases productivity, gluten free cooking, oil and water color painting, writing. I could go on.

Let’s start with servant leadership

I really believe this is an important leadership style, and have always done my best to lead this way. It comes second nature to me. Perhaps that’s because my mother was my role model. She led by example and through coaching. My biggest success comes from helping others find their “aha” moments. Seeing others develop to their fullest potential, following their passions, is very gratifying. When I Googled servant leadership, I found this definition on greenleaf.org which describes my leadership style perfectly:

That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived? (source: https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/)

I see this in the online social media marketing classes I teach through Yavapai College. If I can impact one or two students who tell me “they got it; they learned so much and are eager to put that learning into practice”…Wow! That’s a win for me. It makes the hours of preparation and planning worthwhile – and the time put into updating the curriculum and re-recording the learning modules.

Applying servant leadership elsewhere

As a consultant I no longer have direct reports to lead and manage. So how can I put this passion for servant leadership into practice elsewhere? One way is with the work I do with and for my clients. Helping them achieve their goals is very satisfying. That I get paid to do so is also gratifying. However, if the work I do for them is not helping, then I don’t feel I’ve delivered the value they deserve. It’s not always because of what I did or didn’t do. Frequently, it’s because the client didn’t follow through on their end to implement or complete the project or process. I did my part. They didn’t want me to go further. Then they dropped the ball. It’s frustrating for me because I can see the potential result down the road if we could just continue a bit longer. The servant leader in me wants to pick up the ball and run with it…but if the client isn’t willing, I need to move on.

Servant leadership - feed your passionAnother way to put servant leadership into practice is through volunteer work. I’ve done this over the years with a nonprofit I co-founded in 2002, ArtsBusXpress. I continue to contribute knowledge, leadership and time because I’m passionate about their mission – to fund transportation to the arts and sciences for school children in San Diego County. The impacts are far-reaching, which makes it a gratifying project to support.

Recently, my husband/partner and I joined the Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis Club. Our friends who are heavily involved with 4-H and the Boy Scouts have re-started the club in order to help kids in the community. One of the big projects is the annual Kiwanis auction, now in its 68th year. It’s run by the Prescott Kiwanis Club, but through our friends, the Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis club has participated in order to raise funds for the Lonesome Wranglers 4-H Club.

How does this tie into servant leadership? By taking a leadership role in the Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis Club. helping to acquire auction items, and spreading the word through online and social media marketing, I will help both clubs achieve their goals. The Prescott Kiwanis Club’s fundraising goal is $155,000 this year. They raised a little over $151,000 last year. The Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis Club goal is to match or surpass the amount raised for 4-H last year.

In the process of talking to business owners about the Kiwanis Auction to get auction contributions, I will also have the opportunity to ask them about what they do, what their goals are, and how they want to promote their business. This may lead to a deeper conversation about what I do and why I’m involved in this project. Who knows?

The goals are multiple: 1) help the kids by raising funds through auction items and donations, 2) help local businesses gain visibility and feel good about their philanthropy, and 3) feed my passion for servant leadership by helping others achieve their objectives. Looks like a win-win-win situation!

So what’s your passion?