First Word – June 2007

What gets rewarded gets done” is a phrase we have subscribed to at our company for years. The successful application of this rudimentary suggestion can change the very culture of a company from a just-get-by attitude to one seeking to find out how good we can be.

The surefire catalyst for this change is to reward the overachievers. Set individual goals that reflect the company’s overall objectives, then compensate those individuals who help you get there. Compensation can come in many forms. Young associates just starting their careers put a premium on time off. Others appreciate some sort of perk, like a gift or dinner for two, which would let them include a significant other. Everyone likes to be recognized for a job well done though, regardless of the reward.

A local highway contractor recently won the bid for replacing a bridge that spans a busy interstate interchange in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. The bridge had been rendered useless by a tanker truck that had overturned and exploded, creating a fire so hot it softened the structural metal. Before it was torn down, the sagging bridge resembled a candle that had been left sitting in the hot sun all day. Since one of the busiest thoroughfares of the state had been detoured onto city side streets, the Alabama Department of Transportation offered a generous reward for early completion of the project. Although emergency bridge replacement was scheduled to take months to complete, by working around the clock the contractor had traffic moving again in less than 30 days.

The reward for early completion was well into the seven-figure range. This contractor shared the windfall with all of those who made the seemingly impossible possible – the workers. Those brave souls who stood out in the cold night air working under lights on a dangerous project high above the ground were not only able to share in the positive publicity created by their record-breaking performance, but they also received an extra check for their contribution. What got rewarded, got done.

If that sounds simplistic, it is. Take a look at any situation where individuals rise above their own personal limitations to become a part of accomplishing a grand group project, and there is always the proverbial carrot dangling just within reach of each member of the team. The goal must be attainable, but the farther one has to reach is in direct proportion to the amount of satisfaction gained by successful completion. The reward is tangible evidence of this success, and also serves as a reminder to motivate us through each subsequent project.

Make each of your team members feel like they are an equal contributor, reward them based on that contribution, then stand back and prepare to be amazed at the results.