Carrots and Sticks

I distinctly remember the big smile on one of my employees faces the first time I handed him a performance based bonus check.

We had had a mandate to complete a large project by the end of the month, and while we were making progress toward our goal, I was starting to worry that we might not hit the target. The mandate to do the job was achieving progress, but not with the speed and level of urgency that’d I’d hoped. So to kick start things, I decided to add some gamesmanship to the project. I declared that the employee who achieved the most progress in a fixed period of time would receive the company’s unwavering respect and affection, but also – some cold hard cash. The atmosphere in the group really changed over the next couple days. The team became competitive. Throughput soared, and so did team morale. The stick set the tone, but the carrot really got us across the finish line.

Praise refers to a positive evaluation of another’s product, performance, or attributes. Praise is distinct from feedback, which tends to be a more negative form of recognition, and is generally oriented towards the encouragement of a future desired, improved outcome. While praise may sometimes be associated with tangible rewards, it is less connected to specific results and rather more reflective of an individual’s competence. It is an encouragement to repeat behavior that has previously occurred.

Praise and feedback are directly connected for any successful relationship – either personal or in the business world. They collectively drive the momentum of any relationship forward – either continually improving it, or ultimately ending it.

Feedback helps us to improve, and praise “rewards” us for making those improvements.
The relationship between the property management staff of a building and its tenant occupants is a great example of this symbiotic relationship.

Historically, the feedback and praise loop was conducted in person, and often through selected points of contact who functioned as the “interface” between the two groups. In today’s digital age however, there are opportunities for this information to flow back and forth between the two groups more regularly and across many individuals.

There are many apps and software tools available today that allow for this type of communication. These tools are often connected with workflow tools, such as Building Engines, which allows tenants to express their satisfaction – or dissatisfaction – with the service they are receiving.

Property Management is then able to use this information to improve its service, using defensible performance data, and offering tenants new ways of interacting with the building in which they work.

This direct, iterative “drip” of information allows managers to truly understand how their staff works and interacts with their clients. It allows for meaningful conversations about problems using data rather than hearsay. This data allows managers to show their staff praise where appropriate and provide feedback when necessary. Watching this data change over time allows managers to evaluate performance as a trend and reward for positive improvements.

Any relationship will evolve over time as the world changes. We have to be willing to listen to each other and we have to have a desire to improve to make the world a better place. Whether our “carrots and sticks” are digital, verbal or written – they are essential to our mutual success.