As you have been rushing from goal to goal or from zig to zag, have you ever found yourself asking, “Why am I doing this?” If you haven’t created and implemented a system of rewards for yourself and those around you, you’re going to find yourself burning out long before you reach your beacon in the fog. Success and money alone are insufficient motivators. I have found that if I tie a reward to the successful completion of each zig, I stay far more motivated than if I never pause to enjoy some benefit specifically tied to its completion. And I find I’m much more enthused about beginning the next zag.
We humans are really not much different from Pavlov’s salivating dogs. If we catch a glimpse of a slab of meat, we will drool, salivate, and do just about anything to get to it. My family has what I view as miserable, little dog that is half-poodle and half-Chihuahua. She is the most high-maintenance little mutt I have ever met. She does not like me, and I do not like her. The problem is the rest of my family loves this dog, so she and I have put up with each other. She will have absolutely nothing to do with me, unless I have a little piece of meat in my hand. Then she views me as her best friend, and her behavior shifts dramatically. She pants and begs and pleads for that little piece of meat. And, more important, she will do anything I ask. Interestingly, she does not like just any kind of meat. She likes the little slices of cheap lunchmeat that I am sure are not healthy for dogs. Our other dog will eat anything I give her, but not this little mutt. From the day we got her, I have had to find the things that specifically work for her.
We all have things that motivate us. The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.” Recognizing that reality, and then consciously and deliberately motivating yourself and your teams using rewards, is one of the most powerful tools I have found, whether it’s in my personal, family, and professional life.
When planning and executing each zig and zag, you should attach a reward to each target. If you find the right rewards for your people, once they hit their goal they will be willing and even anxious to turn toward the next goal.
Every great leader knows how to motivate people. It does not matter if you are a CEO, a coach, a school teacher, a middle manager, or a parent, a big part of your job is being the psychologist or therapist who knows how to put out little rewards that get the people around you to behave consistently in working toward the goals you’ve established. Lee Iacocca said, “Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all of those things effectively, you can’t miss.” Lee Iococca (b. 1924). U.S. Businessman. Talking Straight (chapter 4, “Good Business—More in Management”)(1988).