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Carrots are better than sticks

Good Group Tips

In principle, you can get a donkey to move forward in two ways: entice her in front with a carrot or hit her from behind with a stick. Carrots are rewards, incentives, appreciation, and — the most compelling — visions of how things can be better. Sticks are punishments, criticisms, and — the most destructive — defeatism, pessimism, and a sense that things are hopelessly bad.

When motivated by sticks we are generally resentful, in pain, and when the stick is gone our motivation disappears. When we are motivated by compelling visions, it’s called inspiration and it fuels our forward movement from within.

Practical Tip: Develop, nurture, and share visions of things being better. Inspire! Rather than catch someone doing something wrong and criticize them, catch someone doing something right and praise them. Rather than focus on what bad things might happen if decided a certain way, focus on what good things might happen if decided differently. Rather than complain about all that is wrong, give thanks for all that is right. Pass the carrots, please.

– Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

3 thoughts on “Carrots are better than sticks

  1. Hi Craig,

    Praise is often a good thing, but it can be a problem too. I think one distinction is between the effort (praiseworthy) vs. the result (not necessarily something to praise even if it is positive).

    This book: “Punished by rewards : the trouble with gold stars, incentive plans, A’s, praise, and other bribes” by Alfie Kohn is an interesting take on how to promote internalized motivation without needing the external motivation of praise or rewards. It’s been out about 25 years but I recommend it as a good read.

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