Get the carrots off the table!

When we're faced with the challenge of getting others to do the work, take the necessary initiative and/or produce the desired results, we can approach this with an open or closed mind. In either case, the outcome depends on the others' motivation. They may be self-motivated or "in need of some motivation". The work may be "no-brainer" or calling for lots of resourcefulness, problem solving and responsiveness to situational variations. As Dan Pink shows us in Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us - the situation may be safe for using extrinsic rewards or fraught with peril.

If we are in danger, our minds will be closed by default. We may be in danger of failing to get the others to do the work. We may be apprehensive about trouble coming from higher ups, clientele or team members who are relying on us to get this done. We may be in danger of the others only making a show of trying to do the work, coming up with excuses or getting distracted by other responsibilities. We may also face dangers of doing more harm than good, creating a worse problem and trashing future cooperation by bungling our use of rewards.

If our minds are closed, we will delude ourselves into thinking it's wise to put carrots on the table. We will set goals and reward the others if they meet the imposed targets on time and under budget. We may create a contest where the best completions win a prize while the others lose out on getting rewarded. We may established a metric to monitor progress and outcomes objectively so the others can compete and beat out their rivals. We might even give everyone a reward if they complete the sequence, but give bigger rewards for the bigger results.

Everyone of these schemes offers extrinsic motivation contingent on performance. These rewards implicitly enforce compliance, control contributions and restrict variations in conduct. They put people "on a short leash" and "pull their chain". Their potential self motivation gets overridden by chasing after the carrots on the table. The lose track of their intrinsic purpose, satisfactions and abilities to grow from the experience. They feel like "slaves to the machine" doing "no brainer work" even if the work is really complex and challenging.

When our minds are open, we get those insidious carrots off the table immediately. We eliminate the potential harm induced by contingent rewards. We make sure everyone has enough resources to run with the ball and solve the problems they encounter. We verify that everyone is getting equal opportunities and fair treatment. We realize their intrinsic motivations will thrive when each is given discretion over what they do, how they do it with whom, when they do it and why they are getting the work done. We assume people have the drive to get things done better than before so long as we stop sabotaging their intrinsic motivation.

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