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Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer. Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began... Read more

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When the Stick Has no Carrot

carrot

It’s time we got real about the Carrot and the Stick.

All the management books tell us about “motivation”, as though it’s a transitive verb, as though it’s something I can “do” to you – or you to me. The only thing worse is “incentivization”, the idea that we can predicate the vision and dedication of a whole group of people solely on the basis of stuff we give them – in the face of all the evidence from the entirety of human history.

The truth is that the “carrot” is not evident for many American workers, and if we include the whole of the world’s population, then the notion of the “carrot” has hardly any reality at all – unless we’re talking about a real carrot, that is, which is more than many people get to eat in a day. Millions of people work hard at jobs with no prospects, no promotion, no salary bump, no fancy benefits – and yet they clock on and clock off, day after day, and many still care about the quality of the work they do.

Why?

Beyond all the hoopla about “motivating” people and putting a juicy carrot on the stick to keep them going, there seems to be an innate human desire to work. In fact, it’s known that the single best thing you can do for your mental health is to have a job, any job – to be employed. It’s not a subject that is often discussed, and most of us fantasize about how terrific it would be if we didn’t have to work. Yet the people who really don’t work also don’t tend to do well psychologically, and poverty is only part of the reason. Work engages the deep part of ourselves that is programmed to live in tribes.

Some people work without a carrot simply to keep their families. For others, it’s about dreams of the future. For others still, it’s a sense of affection for those we work with, or service to country, or favors owed, or a laundry list of other good reasons that require no carrot. Others labor angrily in chains forged from prejudice or lack of opportunity, but where there’s anger, there’s always hope. If you’re a leader, that’s worth remembering.

And if you look at the real reasons people work even when the stick has no carrot, if you scan across the reasons of family, duty, service, the American dream, tribe, a place where we feel we belong, a substitute for opportunity unfairly denied, it all comes back to one thing, if we’re honest.

It could only be love.

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John Kolm

About John Kolm

Team Results USA’s CEO John Kolm is an innovator of 21st century team productivity programs, a best-selling author, and a former intelligence officer.

Originally from Australia, John formed Team Results in 1996 with retired business partner and decorated veteran Peter Ring as the end result of an experiment that began in 1993. Driven by frustration with the team development options then available to business and government, and with encouragement from early clients, they applied their academic training and practical leadership experience to build the unique approach to team productivity improvement that eventually became Team Results. The company grew rapidly, expanded to a wholly US-owned branch in the United States in 2005, and now operates as a very successful business in both hemispheres.

In 2004 John and Peter wrote the global bestseller “Crocodile Charlie and the Holy Grail” (Penguin, available on Amazon.com), consolidating ten years of work with peak clients into a compelling story about team productivity, leadership in business and government, and happiness at work. The book has been re-published in seven languages and fourteen countries, and a sequel is in the works. John is also the author of numerous articles and papers on team dynamics in the modern workplace, some of which can be found in the News Room at www.teamresultsusa.com .

John is qualified in Psychology from the University of Melbourne, and in mathematics and statistics from the U.S. National Cryptologic School, where he also taught on the faculty. Email him at John.kolm@teamresultsusa.com .

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