Don’t Blame Amazon! High Performance Cultures Need the Stick

a businessman reaches for a carrot held on the end of a fishing pole

We were familiar with it as we grew up and then later as we tried to teach our children the right way to behave…it was the “carrot and stick” philosophy.

This approach to child rearing was named as it refers to a cart driver who dangles a carrot in front of a mule to motivate forward progress while at the same time holding a stick behind to urge him forward if the carrot didn’t work. Basically it is a policy of combining rewards and punishment to motivate desired behavior.

All well and good. What we can’t understand is how, in the business world, leaders have lost sight of the power of the stick.Many leaders seem to believe that behavior is driven only by rewards.

However, what we have learned in our 16+ years of high performance research with elite institutions such as Harvard, the U.S. Special Forces, Cisco, Accenture, MIT, NASA, Juilliard, and the Olympic Games, is that the stick, when done right, is needed too. The pressure to perform (symbolically the stick) is a necessary component to building high performance environments. If there are fair, proportionate, timely, accurate, transparent and meaningful consequences in the mix, team members work to avoid failure and achieve success more productively than with just the carrot alone.

We take issue, for example, with an article published recently on the BBC News web site (http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35763908) that was critical of the way Amazon tried to deal with theft in their warehouses. Citing a report by Bloomberg, the article talked about Amazon’s screening of video clips that were designed to show what happens when employees are caught stealing. Not surprisingly, these employees, when caught, were fired. Some considered these videos offensive. Sure they may not be pleasant viewing but they leave no confusion about the consequences of warehouse theft. This is clearly the “stick” behind the mule.

As part of a balanced and high performance culture, we believe that the stick can be as powerful and persuasive as the carrot and that the two should be wisely used together. But we also know that performance pressure must be carefully watched and offset by other factors. If you create too much or too little performance pressure, your culture may suffer even if you have the “right” people and a “great” strategy.

Meaningful and purposeful cultures make employees proud and motivated to do their best at every task. High performers seem to do this effortlessly. But low performers need to be motivated to do their best and beyond. This is where the stick sometimes comes in. High performance cultures require that substandard performers (when given needed support) must improve relatively quickly if they wish to remain employed. This “improve with support or move on” mentality ensures that people focus on and are rewarded for pre-agreed-to performance standards.

And it keeps high performers motivated too. They are the ones who get discouraged if there are no consequences for low productivity on the job. They are apt to wonder the value associated with striving for excellence if the leaders don’t seem to notice or care when others slack off.

While we certainly believe that intrinsic motivation and positive reinforcement is a critical component to a high performance workplace, we also know that the highest performing organizations create an organizational culture with very clear performance standards and consequences for failing to meet minimal expectations.

Learn more about building a high performance culture.

Download our high performance leadership whitepaper.

Share:
Facebook Twitter Google+ Email LinkedIn

Comments are closed.

Understanding and conforming to legal compliance was very important to our company. We turned to LSA Global to provide a quality and cost effective way to ensure that we were AB 1825 compliant. Their interactive eLearning program was top-notch. It allowed our managers to learn at their own pace, and on their own time. The program was tailored to include our logo and our internal harassment policies. It was interactive and met all federal and state legal requirements. I would highly recommend LSA Global to any company looking for an efficient and effective and top quality way to train their managers to be in compliance.

Kelly Warren, SPHR
Director, HR & Compliance

We contacted LSA to help us with customized management development. LSA worked with me to identify a solution that would meet our exact needs. We decided to start at the top and ran the program for our executive team. It was such a great success that we hope to roll it out companywide. We look forward to a long-term partnership with LSA Global and their team of experts.

Barry L. Byrd, SPHR
Human Resources Manager

In the Next Generation Management Development courses, I was trained with skills and tools that have made me and my team more productive, motivated, and successful at communicating with other departments.

 

Kevin Ashman
Firmware Engineering Supervisor

Our company engaged LSA to do a specialized “train the trainer” program, and the consultant’s performance outdid our exceptionally high standards for such a program. Very crucial to the success of this program was the work done upfront to discuss our needs and to interview key members of our organization so that the program specifically met our goals. Our facilitators continue to comment on the success of the program. Thanks also for the follow-up.

Frank Abbott
Chief Financial Officer

I’ve been associated with LSA for the last 8 years and have found them to be an extremely professional, well managed full service training organization. Since working with LSA, I’ve participated in a number of solutions ranging from Performance Management to Assertiveness Training – I’ve found that the quality of the resources is superior. They are well prepared and have definitely done a considerable amount of pre-work in order to customize our culture and business into the total learning experience – making it most beneficial for our employees.

Duane Schroeder
Human Resource Manager

LSA’s consultant designed and delivered a half-day team building solution for our recent conference. It included careful customization to integrate the design with our new mission and values. Everyone had fun and identified key issues with our teamwork. Altogether a great program!

Bob Ward
Director of HR

LSA has been a tremendous asset to my portfolio, both at my current company and my past company. As an HR leader, I am always looking for ways to find external resources that can provide a solution to our management training needs. LSA does that for me. Their solutions are presented in a much more leadership-oriented manner so as to be crisp, business relevant, and easy to apply right back on the job. I will continue to augment our programs using LSA solutions.

Ken Boehm
VP of Human Resources

Hyperion has a commitment to lifelong learning. LSA helps us provide the right business sales training, management training programs, and leadership development programs at the right time to meet the needs of both individuals and departments. I especially appreciate their ability to listen to my needs and recommend the appropriate facilitators, solutions and content.

Sarah Parks
Senior Project Manager

Hyperion

Congratulations on your pro-activity in establishing this program and developing such an effective New Employee Orientation course.

Farhat Ali
President and Chief Executive Office

Fujitsu

What a personal and professional pleasure it has been to Partner with LSA. They are truly a strategic partner with Wyse. For more than 5 years, LSA has been engaged in delivering various training and development solutions for Wyse, from custom on-site programs targeting specific core competencies, to working individually with clients to build job skills, and offering invaluable services to me and my team as we continue to build our learning programs. LSA’s representatives do more than sell a product, they offer a full service solution: they understand our business, our strategic initiatives, and the needs of our customers.

Jeff Rangel
Director of HR

Each program is preceded by an assessment of the participants. The course is then designed to fit the specific parameters and needs of the group. The highly interactive delivery is provided by recognized experts in their fields. On the spot coaching is provided during the program and each participant receives individual follow-up after the course. Courses can be delivered in-person or virtually. Given the nature of Cisco’s business and the way we operate, these remote workshops are a must for anyone who joins our company. Their work is eye opening. Great content and fantastic delivery.

Frank J. Kuypers
Business Development Manager

I’ve partnered with LSA Global at two companies now, and I consider them a valuable and trusted training and consulting resource. They recommended just the right solution to address our management development needs and have wonderful facilitators that match YuMe’s culture and style of our management team. I would highly recommend LSA Global to any company wanting to deliver quality learning solutions with a valuable learning and development partner.

Maya Paul
HR Director

I had been working with LSA for many years with my prior company. Currently, I’m with a company who hadn’t done much basic management skills training. After identifying and presenting a program recently, our managers are excited and talking in the halls about the great experience. LSA saves us time in delivering the right training for our needs.

Phyllis Moracco
HR Director

I continue to be impressed by the level of leadership development and management expertise and quality of advice and facilitation that LSA has to offer. What a smart and client-centric group of great people who really know how to help leaders attract, engage, develop and retain top talent.

Tracy Esposito
Director, HR Business Partner

Thank you to LSA Global for their partnership and support in helping us to design and roll-out our valuable management development training program. I personally have partnered with LSA Global at four of my previous companies. It continues to be a delight working with LSA. We look forward to partnering with them at Blackhawk Networks for future training and consulting needs.

Suzanne Kinner
VP Human Resources

Blackhawk Network

Evaluate your Performance

Toolkits

Toolkits

Download key published insights and tools from industry experts highlighting best practices in the areas of talent, strategy and culture.

More

Health Checks

Health Checks

Want to know how you stack up against leading organizations?  Receive a complimentary benchmarking analysis courtesy of an LSA Expert.

More

Whitepapers

Whitepapers

Get up to speed on timely solutions critical to your business. Published by LSA Experts based upon client feedback and key industry trends.

More

Methodology

Methodologies

First we identify the key metrics you want to improve. Then we assemble a dedicated team of elite experts who have successfully solved similar problems with similar clients.

More

Blogs

Stay up to do date with the latest information on how we help high growth companies align their culture and talent with strategy.

More

Case Studies

Client Case Studies

Real world consulting and training approaches from LSA projects, providing insights on how your company can outperform the competition.

More