• Jim Canfield

Motivate Your People to Action



Setting ambitious goals and sharing them with the entire team is one thing; achieving them is another.


Goals should be linked to aggressive compensation plans that reward your employees for achieving them. Interestingly, it’s usually a company’s current top performers who are motivated by challenging goals and aggressive compensation plans.


Pick a Motivator


Money is the most commonly used motivator, but it’s actually considered a base motivator. To get your superstars to reach for higher and higher levels, you must understand their personal dreams and find ways to help fulfill them. When you do, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish together.


Have you heard through the grapevine or in private discussions that an employee wants or needs something special but can’t or won’t buy it? Make that something his or her reward for hitting a big, audacious goal. It could be a trip to an exotic place, a Harley-Davidson® motorcycle, a one-year lease on an incredible sports car, or a hot tub on the back patio-anything that represents the employee’s long-held desire.


Challenge and Encourage them


Setting a challenging goal is only half the equation. To keep your employees on track to achieve it, be sure to pepper them with lots of encouragement, enthusiastic support, and ongoing feedback. Ken’s company encouraged him by sending him the latest Steinway catalog and awarding him a state-of-the-art metronome after his first successful month, and the company continued to offer Ken support and recognition at every opportunity. If you use this type of incentive, there are three things to consider:

  • Be prepared—Be prepared with a plan for what will happen if the employee gets close to the goal but falls short. In Ken’s case, if he’d achieved only 90 percent of the target, he’d still have received the Steinway; but for every percentage point he fell short, he’d have had to write a check to the company for the difference.

  • Don’t forget taxes—Someone is obligated to pay taxes on the piano, which essentially was compensation to Ken. The best approach is to “gross-up” the reward by writing a check to the employee for the taxes owed.

  • Follow through—Be sure to deliver the reward in a timely manner. When people work hard to help achieve the company’s goals, you must hold up your end of the bargain by delivering the reward without delay. The closer you link the reward to the employee’s positive behavior, the easier it will be to influence his or her behavior the next time.


The important thing is to have fun with your challenges to your employees. They’ll appreciate the creativity and will love the distraction from their normal quotas or performance expectations. They’ll enjoy a friendly competition that rewards them with something that they truly want rather than something that you want to give them.

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