The Carrot and the Stick

carrotandstickAs many of you may know, outside of work I own a smallholding where I keep many animals including horses, sheep and pigs. It is while I am shovelling fertiliser (substitute a word of your choice here!) that I do most of my thinking. I often think of leadership and how I can motivate my team and colleagues. Recently I have found myself connecting the work on the farm with my work in the office and I have had a few revelations.
When I need to get the horses in from the field I can use a couple of techniques; the carrot or the stick.
The stick method (no I don’t actually use a stick!) is to go into the field, get behind the horses and make all those “farmery” noises while waving my arms about like a demented windmill. This is quite effective because the horses are more than keen to get away from the nutter in their field and retreat to the stables with great alacrity.
The carrot method involves standing in the gateway shaking a bucket of carrots and calling to them in a cheerful voice. This can be very effective if you are not bothered about being mugged by a pony for the carrots.
Although both methods end up with the horses in the stable, they have different effects on the behaviour of the horses:
With the stick method you have to go into whichever paddock the horses are grazing every time and do the windmill impression for them. After a while they realise that they can happily graze in a distant corner of the paddock and begin to ignore you. Also, when you finally get them in, both you and the horses are somewhat irate. This makes handling the horses a greater challenge.
With the carrot method, the horses will come running even if you are quite distant. As long as they can see you (or, more accurately the bucket) and hear you, they will come running. When they get into the stables they are more relaxed and easier to handle. Eventually, with patience you get to the magic moment when you don’t actually need the carrots anymore; they will follow you anywhere just with the memory of the carrot.
“So, how does this relate to leadership?” I hear you ask. Here’s how it goes: If you praise and support your team, forgive them their errors and help them to learn from them, help them to improve by coaching and mentoring, they will grow to trust you and will give their all. By treating your team as trusted adults they will return that trust many times over. If however you chose to beat them with the (figurative) stick, you will only get resentment in return and as soon as you move out of sight they will return to underperforming ways.
In conclusion, the carrot has an infinite range and the stick has a range only of the length of the stick.

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