Napoleon said it best… “My men will die for a ribbon but I cannot get them to die for money!”
Derek Williams – Chief Executive of The WOW! Awards shares his thoughts.
Peter Merrett, founder of The House of Wonderful, sent these pictures of his son Zachary. Zac received an Honour Badge and Certificate for being Student of the Week at St Joseph’s School. Peter tells me, “I wish I could have been there when he got called up in assembly… Apparently he raced up to the head teacher at the front, completely beaming with pride. His badge is a piece of paper, laminated, with a safety pin, maybe cost 50 cents to make…. but he is bouncing with happiness and all his friends think he’s really cool!!”
It seems almost criminal that the most important lessons in human psychology are learnt at the earliest stages of our growth and education. But are then almost forgotten for the rest of our lives.
As children at home and in school we learn the power of recognition. Money would be of no use to a four year old. But a gold star on a chart or a merit badge pinned to a shirt or a little certificate from the head teacher means everything. These tokens recognising achievement become a major part of our lives. Parents and grand-parents applaud these badges of honour. And many a child will store these little mementoes in a safe place as a lasting reminder that they are brilliant.
But what we learn in our youth somehow seems to get relegated as a memory of youth; not something that can be used in today’s world of the busy professional. In our eagerness to impress and progress we forget about the power of recognition and start instead to focus on the power of reward. As leaders and managers we become conditioned to believe that most people will only work hard for money and if we want them to work harder then we have to pay them more. So much so that it becomes a fear – the fear that people will only respond to money or reward.
This fear gets complemented by other fears. The fear that customers only want to complain. The fear that we have to micro-manage in order to get the best possible outcome. The fear that softness is weakness. And so we create organisations that, to the outside world, appear hostile; not quite what customers might have been looking for!
The WOW! Awards is based on the idea that customers could catch people doing things right. What we have begun to understand from The WOW! Awards is both fascinating and contradictory…
Fear #1: That customers only ever want to complain? The truth is that customers love to say “Thank you,” when they receive great service. It just has to be simple to do and in a way that gives front line people recognition from the most senior management. Unfortunately, most organisations only ever ask for complaints and so all they ever receive are complaints.
Fear #2: That we have to micro-manage people to achieve the best result? Yet every time I ask people would they like to be micro managed or would they prefer to be given the responsibility, the resources and the support to do a good job, guess what their reply is?
Fear #3: That people only respond to the incentive of money or reward? A survey of UK sales people conducted by Austin Benn found that, “Being respected is the single biggest motivator in all respondents, far more than money!” The key point here is not so much “Being respected is the single biggest motivator” but that “all” respondents answered this way. (I recommend watching “The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” by Dan Pink https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc )
Fear #4: That softness is weakness. What we have discovered is that the most powerful tool at our disposal is the ability to say, “Thank you,” provided that it is done in a sincere way. When that “thank you” comes from a customer and is delivered by senior management, the power is awesome.
Debbie Goodwin working at Haringey Council said, “Receiving The WOW! Award after 33 years working for the council has made it all worthwhile.”