ABCs of Incentives

February 26, 2015
As CEO of the most important organization I’ve ever had the privilege to being a part of, my responsibilities include, among a laundry list (no pun intended) of daily tasks, managing a harmonious and efficient environment to ensure that all entities within the organization are at peak performance. (Read: Mom, chief cook, and bottle washer to two small children.) I am always searching for ways to stimulate and motivate young minds and bodies, so when my five-year old daughter recently approached me with jobs she wanted around the house, I quickly sprang into action. The plan: establish an incentive program with challenging but attainable goals, simple and easy to understand rules, and the promise of a fabulous reward for achieved goals. In order to engage my protégé, we collaborated on the goals. She immediately suggested helping me cook. A sous chef? Perfect! I made additional recommendations, such as getting herself dressed daily without help, setting the dinner table, clearing her dishes after eating, and putting her toys away. She agreed – giving me an extra 30 minutes a day to focus on my own “laundry list” – and a weekly contest was established. I created a Leader Board (also known as a sticker chart) thoughtfully placed in a high-traffic area (the bulletin board in the kitchen) at optimal height for the maximum hits (48” high). The rules were simple: the minimum goal required would be to earn 21 stickers over a seven day period. Bonus points could be earned for truly challenging goals, such as eating her green beans, with on-the-spot recognition (double high-fives) and reward (dessert of her choice). We agreed the reward would change weekly, and that she could establish the reward (with supervisor approval, of course). Then I sat back and waited for ROI. The first reward on her list was a $7 Nick Jr. app for the family iPad. She had seen commercials for the app and her desire to i-interact with Dora the Explorer and The Bubble Guppies was so strong it was palpable. Every day that week she asked if she had earned the app yet. Every day we reviewed the Leader Board for her ranking; she was getting closer to her goal of 21 stickers with each task completed.  To watch the motivation mounting was amazing. Literally overnight, toys were put away and the dinner table was set with her dishes cleared afterward. And no longer did we fight about getting dressed in the morning. I'd lay out an outfit, give her instructions, and leave the room. Voila! Minutes later she emerged dressed (okay so maybe her shoes were on the wrong feet) and ready to start the day. By the end of the week she had earned her $7 app. I was happy to watch the joy on her face as she reveled in the reward she had earned, and I knew I had struck a nerve and tapped into productivity that just had to be harnessed. The incentive had worked brilliantly and, just as any CEO worth their mettle knows, you invest in your strongest assets in order to build a strong, healthy, and streamlined organization. So whether you are responsible for 2,000 people and trying to increase your bottom line, or responsible for two and are simply trying to live in a cleaner, happier home, the philosophy is the same: motivation and reward yield results, and results pay dividends. And those dividends will ultimately pay for that once-in-a-lifetime trip for your top performers to Bora Bora or a Saturday afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese. Yep, we did that too.

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