Business|The Carrot or the Stick:A Manager’s Conundrum

Lori Jackson blog photo
In my many years of business experience, I have observed that management styles can typically be categorized into two approaches: the “stick” or the “carrot.”
The “stick” method is by far the more dubious of the two. Often characterized by negative reinforcement or threats of punishment, managers tend to resort to the “stick” when they feel under pressure to deliver faster results or better quality work in a shorter time frame. Time crunches are a manager’s worst enemy and tend to bring out the worst in us. Forms of the “stick” can include public shaming, scolding, and threats to an employee of job loss or reduced compensation. Some managers resort to the “stick” as their primary motivational tactic because it tends to produce results faster in the short term. But, the damage done by “stick” tactics can erode the morale of employees and lead to chronic staff turnover.
A better alternative in my view is the “carrot” approach. A successful “carrot” style may require some behavioral changes on the part of the manager, but the results are typically rewarding and lead to greater productivity among staff members.

The first strategy of the “carrot” method is to be nice. When you see an employee for the first time that day, smile and ask questions. “How are you doing today? How are the kids?” And really listen to their answers. Little things like this can go a long way to building a rapport with your team.
Along with common courtesy, here are some other tips to accomplish the “carrot” style in your management approach: 1) Be Clear: Make sure that directions are easy to follow and are not ambiguous. Allow for questions and don’t demean a staffer who may need a little more guidance. 2) Be Competent: Lead by example. If your staff has to cover up your incompetence, it is obvious to everyone. 3) Be Focused: Organizational skills are key to running a productive team. The saying, “It starts at the top” is true. If you as a manager are not organized, then you cannot expect your staff to be either. Keep your eye on the goal or task at hand and your employees will follow. 4) Have Integrity: Your reputation is important. If you make a mistake, own it. That will go a long way in earning the respect of your staff.
The old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is not just an axiom. Even if your personality gravitates towards the “stick” approach, it’s far better to incorporate the “carrot” techniques into your management style. The results in the long run will pay dividends to you and your business.

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