In a recent brainstorming exercise, a team I was working with explored the concept of rewards. None of the ideas replaced fair wages, performance bonuses, appreciation or on-the-spot praise, but they added into the ways you already reward results. They were ideas that could accelerate your team’s performance.
First, let me set up a distinguishing definition: reward and appreciation are not equals.
Let’s start with appreciation. Appreciation is a specific type of feedback that says, “I see you. You matter.” Appreciation feedback focuses on the value of the person. It can be delivered top-down, peer-to-peer, or bottom-up, and all directions matter. Employees absolutely need to hear appreciation feedback. In fact, it is often the most craved piece of feedback in the workplace.
But, if you’re giving all the appreciation in the world and something is still missing, could it be that we’ve failed at delivering rewards? Employees need more than to know they’re valued as individuals. They also need to be rewarded for specific results and desired outcomes. More often than not, rewards are directional—meaning they come from the top-down. This means leaders have to ensure that communicating desired results, and then rewards for those results, are on their list of responsibilities.
So, back to the brainstorming session. We were talking about rewards.
The question for the tables was this: “How can your manager or partner reward you for delivering results that are meaningful to the firm?”
These three answers from the team were creative, impactful, and had nothing to do with money:
- Give me more responsibility. For example, “You did so great with that project that I am going to trust you to lead an even bigger one.” This isn’t a pass to bog down high-performers. But, trusting a team member with more because of their previous results can be a reward if they understand the intention. More responsibility can mean more growth, more exposure, more career opportunities. Doing the same thing over and over can be draining and limiting to a career. Who could you reward with more responsibility?
- In my presence, brag on my results to someone else in leadership. Make sure others in the organization know the high-performers on your team and make sure the high-performers know their successes are being seen. This is a component of sponsorship and advocacy and we need to do both for the high performers—the results creators—on our teams.
- Lunch with my partner or CEO. Earning face-to-face time as a reward may not be on your radar, but for your team, it can be a real and rare treat. Imagine if after a really big deliverable you invited your team member to lunch with you and your boss. That is a reward for so many people.
Rewards are the best way to get new, desired behaviors from your team, and you can be creative in what that looks like. Talk to your team and don’t be afraid to individualize the reward based on the team member’s personal preferences. We get the behaviors that we reward, so how can you reward your team today?