Five work colleagues in a meeting, one with a bright blue shirt

Carrot or stick? Towards or Away? Gain or Avoid? What goes wrong?

No, not a new word puzzle – but a valuable motivational tool in a manager’s armoury

When managing and appraising performance, it’s really helpful to understand what drives each individual member of your team.

You may well be motivated by the carrot. However, it’s unlikely that all your line reports will be the same. The stick will drive others …..

If you thrive on the ‘towards’ principle and use this to engage with a colleague who is motivated by ‘away’, you’ll get frustrated with the lack of action. Likewise your colleague who is driven by ‘avoidance’ rather than ‘gaining benefits’ will get disgruntled at your lack of empathy.

And don’t make the common mistake of thinking that all successful, positive individuals are motivated by the same things.

If we consider two very successful entrepreneurs, Sir Richard Branson and Lord Alan Sugar – the former is predominantly motivated by ‘towards’ being the first to try many business ventures and taking lots risks personally in global adventures.

Lord Alan Sugar on the other hand, has been driven by the ‘away’ principle – wanting to get away from his poor upbringing and have a better lifestyle initially and then from competitive companies/ products to maintain his edge.

Understanding the different drivers behind the carrot or stick approach will help you to unlock the secret of leveraging performance and enable the desired behaviours to be achieved.

Tony Robbins, life coach and author, gives an insight to this motivational technique in his book entitled ‘Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement, as follows:

“All human behaviour revolves around the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain.”

What you gain from getting this right

Spending time analysing ‘towards’ and ‘away from’ behaviours gives you and your team:

  • Greater production capabilities
  • More engaged and motivated staff
  • Fewer personnel issues
  • Increased average service length
  • Improved wellbeing and team spirit
  • Less stress!

The ‘carrot or stick’ principle is covered in more detail in NLP Meta-Programs which form the basis of several of the Impellus management training courses.