Reverse-Engineering Rewards

Reverse-Engineering Rewards

It is the start of a new year and you have, like a good leader, certainly surveyed all you lead. You’ve done this because you want greater results. You want your team to achieve more. You yearn for the best from everyone in your firm.

Here is a question you have to ask yourself in order to assure this: What rewards are the people who work with me and for me anticipating? Now, by this I don’t just mean financial or material rewards. Instead, I mean everything from job satisfaction, to prestige of position, to the betterment of the firm, to service to the public and, yes, all of the material rewards that might come to them.

It is important that now, at the start of the year, you mentally put yourself in the shoes of everyone in your firm and envision what they dream might come to them in exchange for the work they do. Picture their faces. Imagine their lives. Some of this is guess work but some of it should come from what you know of each person—what you’ve been told in casual conversations with them or what you’ve gleaned from the comments of others.

Take time with this. Get a clear picture in your mind. What is it your people seek from the work they do?

Once you have a clear picture in your mind, build on this. In a completely non-manipulative way, get about the business of making the work your people do more rewarding. Unless your compensation package is very low, you may find that people are not necessarily looking just for more money. They may be looking for greater satisfaction in the work they do. They may be hoping for heightened skills or more input about how things are done or better teaming across departmental lines. Know what these values are. Make certain of them. Then, heighten all the rewards that you can.

I know of a leader who underwent this process and found out that his people wanted to attend a conference of professionals in their field so they could learn the best practices and network with the likeminded. This leader ended up spending relatively little money but saw job satisfaction and productivity soar. No one wanted more money. They instead wanted to feel like part of a profession and to do work better with greater pride.

Another leader I work with found out that most of his key workers just wanted to give input. They said that the managers often didn’t know the ground-level challenges and they asked that there simply be one lunch a month where they could be heard. They also said they didn’t want the boss’s executive assistant choosing the menu. “We aren’t rabbits, for heaven’s sake,” one said. “Let’s do some barbecue!” This meeting cost almost nothing and changed everything about how the firm worked. Why? Because a leader found out what rewards his people valued. Being respected for the expertise they had acquired was the answer in this case.

Here’s the conclusion. Leaders make demands. They set costly visions and expect their goals/dreams/visions to be fulfilled. Great leaders should do exactly the same thing in reverse. Find out what their people value and do all that is possible to make sure these things are made a reward for good work. This is the transaction that great leaders must safeguard.