I’m often guilty of giving my three year old a treat when I need her do something quickly – without asking questions. I know this is probably Not Good but, stuck for time, I do it anyway. In that frenzied moment, I don’t have the patience to give her much attention.

Now I read over on my friend Graeme Semple’s blog that parenting expert Elizabeth Hartley Brewer has published two whole books on the subject, Raising and Praising Girls / Raising and Praising Boys, where she points out that once a child realises that treats are available, they simply manipulate their parent in order to secure more treats.

Intrinsic motivators

Graeme asked whether bankers’ bonuses really work, and linked to David Bolchover’s new book, Paycheck: Are Top Earners Really Worth It? Bolchover’s work reminds me of Dan Pink’s research into intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators.

Dan did a great TED talk called The Puzzle of Motivation where he talked about this research in detail. He argues that traditional rewards (money, stuff) aren’t always as effective as we think. Employees can be far more productive when intrinsic motivators (like autonomy, mastery and purpose) are present.

The trouble with intrinsic motivators is that they take a lot more time to establish: a strong sense of community, a set of meaningful values and cohesive social capital don’t appear overnight (unlike bonuses).

Time to listen

Look at famous examples of truly networked organisations: Dee Hock’s Visa, Ricardo Semler’s Semco and The Co-operative. It’s clear that listening and collaboration have been built into the very fabric of these companies – and that these values have been built upon over time. From the outset, bosses like Hock and Semler took time to really pay attention to employees’ needs.

In this way, good management is very much like good parenting: there are no shortcuts.

Beautiful data visualisation: the way to employees’ hearts?


Jemima Gibbons

Social media consultant and author of Monkeys with Typewriters (featured by BBC Radio 5 and the London Evening Standard). Get your social marketing up and running with my Social Media Launch Pack!

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