Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Making Employee Engagement Easy

What do Aretha Franklin and your employees have in common?  They both need a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T to get the job done.

Come to think of it, handing out a little respect to employees, customers, suppliers, spouses and friends just seems like something that we all should have learned in kindergarten. But apparently, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

That’s where Paul Marciano’s Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement With the Principles of RESPECT comes in. I received a copy of this book from the author but had been eyeing it at the book store myself.

A word of warning: You’re about to read a rather passionate book review.  Reading the book, I was struck not so much by what the book says to us, but what the book says about us as small business owners and the impressions that we create.

Who This Book Is Written For — and Who Will Read It

Carrots and SticksI had one major frustration with this book: The people who need to read it probably won’t. And the people who will read it might be mistaken for bobble-head dolls because they will agree with everything it says–but may not be in a position to actually do anything about it.

Is that cynical of me?  It might be.  But when you think about the image CEOs have created for themselves recently with the Wall Street and BP debacles, you might also think that the board of any organization large or small should make Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work required reading and a condition of employment.

Did We Really Need All This Research to Find Out That RESPECT Works?

Carrots and Sticks was the result of a couple of defining moments in Paul Marciano’s life (website and Twitter @drpaulmarciano).  The first was an early job experience where a fresh-faced, energized and enthusiastic Marciano showed up for his first day and was practically ignored by everyone there.  In fact, the owners who hired him never bothered to show up, the receptionist didn’t know who he was, and when he asked where he should sit, someone said, “The last guy sat over there.”

The second defining moment came when a group of executives asked him to speak about employee motivation.  As Marciano started pulling all the theories and research behind what motivates employees, he found something so obvious and so profound that it had been overlooked – RESPECT!

What Mom Taught Us and We Forgot

One of the great features of this book is that Marciano quickly takes us on a review of all the motivational theories we’ve used and abused over the last hundred or so years.  Reading through “A Brief History of Human Motivation” almost felt like going through my management undergrad and MBA in 15 minutes.  That’s a good thing.  Instead of beating Frederick Taylor’s scientific management or B.F. Skinner’s reinforcement and punishment theories to death, Marciano gives them context.  He explains the ways these well-documented theories contributed to our industrial revolution and ultimately detracted from what we’ve always known as human beings: Motivation is short-lived, but full engagement is everlasting.

About a third of the book is dedicated to getting managers/business owners to review what they learned in school and assumed was true.  At first I found myself wondering why Marciano didn’t just get to the point and talk about his RESPECT  model.  Then I realized that there was a real benefit to Marciano’s method of walking you through the theories, then explaining the reasons motivation doesn’t work in the long term.  By the time I got to page 79, where he finally launches into the RESPECT  model,  I was ready to listen.

The Seven Drivers of the RESPECT  Model

  1. Recognition
  2. Empowerment
  3. Supportive Feedback
  4. Partnering
  5. Expectation
  6. Consideration
  7. Trust

I thought about explaining each one – but I think you already know exactly what each one means.   Here is where Marciano digs into the details that many miss.  He includes a self-assessment early in the chapter that gets you thinking about what specifics look like.  Here are just a few examples from the “Empowerment” chapter:

  • I regularly ask employees how I can help them be more successful.
  • I delegate as much decision-making responsibility as possible to employees.
  • I insist that employees receive continued training to expand their skills.
  • I actively encourage employees to take educated risks.
  • I ask employees for suggestions on eliminating or changing policies they find restrictive.

These are a fantastic barometer of actual behaviors you can practice in your business.  You no longer have to treat employee engagement as some mystical, nebulous thing.  You don’t have to wonder how to create a more engaging environment after an employee survey.  It’s all right here in Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work. Get a copy for yourself and your employees and start putting these theories into practice for 2011.

6 Comments ▼

Ivana Taylor - Book Editor


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is Book Editor for Small Business Trends and publisher of DIYMarketers , where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is the President of Third Force, Inc., a marketing firm that specializes in getting your ideal customer to choose you. Ivana is the book editor for Small Business Trends and co-author of the book "Excel for Marketing Managers."

6 Reactions

  1. Interesting point, but the reward part (the carrot?) of carrot and stick will always help you get the most out of your employees.

  2. Ivana,

    I think that the underlying idea of respect is the trader principle. It is a two-way street, striving for a win-win situation.

  3. Paul Marciano led an excellent full day seminar for the leaders of my organization, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. I read his book before attending, and agree with your assessment. Having gone through several “carrot and stick” programs in the corporate world, I found that not only do they not work, but often breed cynicism and apathy in employees. I for one will corroborate what Marciano brings to the table about RESPECT and engagement, and hope that many more business leaders take notice. Thanks for reviewing this.

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