Month: January 2011 Page 1 of 2
Being from Minnesota and the fact that we are receiving yet another few inches of snow (we hit our average snowfall for the entire season around the 1st of January) I am very grateful that Groundhog Day is just around the corner. While not much into the actual predictive measures of a groundhog seeing it’s shadow to predict how long winter will last…the date itself brings the promise of Spring.
I am very ready for it (as is my snowblower).
I just received an e-mail “thank you” from a client that we did some work for earlier this month.
It was short. It said some nice things about the work we did. It said other nice things about how he wanted to work with us again.
In all, it probably took two minutes to write and…
IT MADE MY DAY!
It was unexpected and unsolicited. It showed appreciation and fed into my drive for achievement and recognition. It touched on specifics of the works we did.
So with a couple of minutes effort, this person just put a smile on my face (and my employee’s face). What a powerful simple act that we too often overlook.
A well thought out thank you can do wonders for you in what it can do. I’ll relate another story from a long, long time ago…
The first incentive compensation communications project that I worked on would not be called one of my most favorite projects. Time lines were extremely tight, the industry I was working in was new to me, the project scope kept changing and morphing, and the client was very demanding and brought an “East Coast” demeanor to the project (for a kid from “Minnesota Nice” this was pretty harsh).
I ended up working on Christmas and New Years (going to bed at 1:00 AM News Years Eve only to wake up at 3:00 AM to work on the project). The stress and long hours that I put in were definitely not compensated for and in the end I was not only exhausted physically but worn out mentally and in every other way possible.
I swore that I would NEVER work on another project like this ever again!
I DOUBLE and TRIPPLE swore that I would NEVER work with this client again!
HELL, MY WIFE SWORE that I would never on another project like this again!
But then…when the project was done and all the deliverables delivered…I recieved one of the nicest e-mail thank you’s I’ve ever received from the “East Coast” client mentioned above.
It highlighted the fact that he knew that this wasn’t an easy project, that the scope had changed, and even that he could be hard to work with. It also went on to state that while the process was challenging, the final product that I ended up producing was the best that they had seen and had gotten great reviews from his internal customers and the sales force. He thanked me for the hard work and passion that I had put into his project.
It made my day back then…and made a little chink in clear “never working on this stuff again” promise I had made to myself.
Needless to say, it took another 9 months and somehow forgetting about all the stress and long hours and other painful stuff, but I signed up to work on the project the next year…the thank you note having done much to sway my opinion on that. I’ve worked with this client every year since (and yes the projects have improved – it’s amazing what planning and actual expertise can do to make life easier) and incentive compensation communications is our biggest product now representing over 60% of the work we do.
It in effect changed my life…
All because of the power of a “thank you.”
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with thank you’s – leave a comment below.
The winter brings with it some of the most beautiful days – with the snow falling gently down, coating all of the world in a white covering. Sometimes on those days, when the air is brisk and you stand outside, you hear the sound of silence. In the city, this can be a most wondrous and magical thing. A moment of silence in which you hear only your own heart beat.
With the temperature at -14 degrees this morning – I am very, very thankful that our heater is working. We have had three service calls on it this year so it might be ready to be replaced but its a great old boiler that just needs a little love. Anyway, I’m glad its working now.
This quote is from the December 2010 issue of World at Work’s Workspan journal. I found it very familiar as we’ve been using the following line in our proposals since 2003 “You can have the best incentive plan in the world, but it doesn’t make a difference if your people don’t understand it or buy into it.”
I believe this with all my heart.
In fact, much of our business is built around this belief. We work with many of our clients creating communications campaigns that drive understanding and help build buy-in to their incentive plans. We tend to think about this in a holistic way with many touch points along the way. We don’t just craft a cool looking brochure and leave it at that. Our ideal process involves upfront analysis with interviews of participants and managers to better understand how the current plan is perceived and used. This analysis also provides us with much needed information as to some of the barriers that we will face in trying to communicate the plan. Then we need to think about how to break through the deluge of information that a typical sales representative is bombarded with. We also work very hard at trying to craft words and visuals that explain the incentive plan in a very easy to understand manner – crafting multiple messages, charts and images. The overall flow needs to be right or the impact is lost. It is important to understand what medium the message is going to be presented in and where it comes in the continuum of communication touch points – is it the first message that is intended to generate excitement in a flash e-mail; the main presentation at the National meeting that needs to show how a sales rep can maximize their payout with this plan; or the detailed plan books that are the legal documents that contain all the minutia that an incentive plan has? We then look at follow-up interviews and focus groups to make sure the message got through and that we didn’t miss anything. Throughout the year we want to communicate to the field using quick reminders and little teasers to keep the plan top of mind.
It is both an art and a science.
Which gets us to the title of this post.
Dan Airely, Richard Thaley, Cass Sunstein, Daniel Kahneman, Ran Kivitz, and many more psychology and behavioral economics researchers have shown that while we like to think of ourselves as rational, thinking human beings who are out to optimize our well being, we aren’t.
In fact, we are very far from it.
Sharon Begley at Newsweek wrote this interesting blog “The Limits of Reason” in it, she states, “But as psychologists have been documenting since the 1960s, humans are really, really bad at reasoning. It’s not just that we follow our emotions so often, in contexts from voting to ethics. No, even when we intend to deploy the full force of our rational faculties, we are often as ineffectual as eunuchs at an orgy.”
We see this all the time. I wrote about it in my earlier post from today “5 Lessons from the Maze.” We tend to act and behave in very non-rational ways. There are lots of irrational types of behavior and thinking and lots of theory’s about them (i.e., Loss Aversion, Status Quo Bias, Gambler’s Fallacy, Hedonistic Bias, Anchoring, Reciprocity, Inequity Aversion, etc…).
Here is what is interesting – we tend to still design our incentive programs and our motivational strategies based on believing that people act in a rational manner. We create programs that have 10 different ways to earn, with multipliers, qualifiers, and ratchet effects. We create programs with multiple components and factors that we think will drive specific behaviors and elicit particular performance results. We believe we know what people want and use only extrinsic rewards to drive our results.
Today is Martin Luther King day. A day of remembrance and thankfulness. A time to reflect on all that has been done by people in the past to get us to where we are today. Particularly those people who suffered and were persecuted to correct wrongs and injustices in our society.
These people had a purpose beyond their own lives. A purpose that motivated them to go out into hostile situations and face the possibility of harm and even death. This inner drive was one that allowed them to see beyond their lives as individuals and see how they needed to change society. It was a purpose larger than themselves. It was a purpose outlined in Martin Luther King’s dream – one in which all people of the world would be judged by the character and not by the color of their skin.
I am very grateful to be able to remember and reflect on this.
I am a huge Minnesota Timberwolves basketball fan. I have been a season ticket holder for a number of years. I’ve seen the good and the bad (actually a lot of bad). But through it all, I have really appreciated the organization. The team might not always win, but the customer service I’ve received is top notch. It feels nice to know that I’m not just a number but that they know my name and the name of my kid…so thank you Timberwolves organization.
Oh and let’s win a few more games!
Here is an interesting thought experiment…
What would happen tomorrow if you removed all of the extrinsic incentives from your organization today?
Think about it. Would your company grind to a halt? Would it go on as if nothing had happened? Would it limp on, not fully grinding to a halt, but maybe not at full speed? Would it burst its seems?
What do you think would happen?