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The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their Employees, Retain Talent, and Drive Performance by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

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After conducting a thorough study, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, bestselling authors of The 24-Carrot Manager, had gathered some surprising findings about employees, managers, and, most importantly, manager effectiveness in the workplace.

After posing questions to 200,000 employees and managers over a 10-year span, Gostick and Elton found a massive correlation between manager recognition and employee performance. The results of this study are published in their most recent book, The Carrot Principle.

Engaging and easy to read, this book can serve as an essential tool for inexperienced managers as well as those who need inspiration to achieve higher satisfaction ratings among employees.



Contrary to their own beliefs, many managers aren't as effective as they think they are. Gostick and Elton cite a survey in which employees and customers rated managers on effectiveness. While managers gave themselves an average score of 7 out of 10, employees often gave their bosses a mere 3 out of 10.

These discrepancies account for huge misunderstandings among managers and employees, which cause many companies to suffer from high employee turnover and poor morale, not to mention managers walking around with rose-colored glasses, oblivious to the realities that encompass them.

According to The Carrot Principle, open communication between employees and managers is an essential component to overall contentment in the workplace. A manager must become a leader in order to effectively use recognition and develop a good model for his or her employees.

A leader is someone who sets clear goals and maintains effective communication with employees by "passing on all bits of news, rather than just wide-sweeping company changes, welcomes open discussion from team members, makes time for employees and listens intently when they express opinions and concerns, and responds promptly to team member requests for more information."

Many managers are afraid to open the lines of communication out of fear that their power will be usurped. In actuality, the opposite occurs when managers communicate effectively. A good manager can recognize the potential of his or her employees and use their passions and skills to further the company's and the department's goals. If the team is doing well, it reflects on the manager and, thus, trickles down to the employees...not to mention that the manager will, in turn, find the office atmosphere more congenial.

In order for this to happen, trust is essential. "Trust is often viewed as more of an interpersonal quality than a leadership skill," the authors explain. However, this idea is false. There is a direct correlation between trust in managers and employee investment.

"When an employee believes that a manager has his best interests at heart, it motivates him to give his best to his work and his company, which creates higher overall commitment, and that equals higher profitability," write Gostick and Elton.

Trusted leaders "publicly own up to their own mistakes, keep their word and commitments, surround themselves with people who can be trusted, consistently take the high road in ethically gray areas, refuse to participate in any level of deception, and actively contribute to the positive reputation of the firm."

If those goals seem too lofty, managers can start small by becoming more visible to their employees. This will help build camaraderie among staff, and team members won't say, "I never see him; he's always locked away in his office or in meetings."

After communication and trust are established in the manager/employee relationship, a manager needs to increase the amount of recognition and praise he or she gives to employees. This can lead to lower turnover and increase productivity.

According to surveys in The Carrot Principle, 65% of Americans had no recognition in their workplace last year. A continuation of this trend will lead to more discontent and decreased morale. Is it any wonder that 50% of the American workforce is dissatisfied and hates getting up and going to work every day?

Characteristics of Engaged Employees According to The Carrot Principle:
  • Innovative
  • Creative
  • Take personal responsibility to make things happen
  • Desire to contribute to the success of the company and team
  • Possess emotional bonds with the organization's mission and vision
Engaged employees are sought after. They are the first out the door when they are unhappy with pay, management, or resources.

Employees seek validation from their leaders. Effective recognition—not necessarily monetary compensation—can be just the validation employees need in order to change their workplace mentalities. Sometimes managers provide validation in ways that recognize all employees equally. Such one-size-fits-all recognition systems are ineffective, according to Gostick and Elton.

For example, a manager may give every person the same reward across the board rather than realizing that each member of his or her staff is a person with individual needs. Considering 25 million U.S. workers are now working more than 50 hours per week, it makes sense that workers want work to be more fulfilling.

"Today's employees are insecure, stressed, discontent, disloyal. Effective managers create work-life success for their employees when personal goals are linked to work well-being," write Gostick and Elton.

Rather than demanding more out of their employees, managers need to become better detectives, discover what makes each employee happy outside of work, and then use this knowledge to show much-needed recognition. Maybe Joe in accounting likes hockey. While he might respond well to a reward of box-seat tickets for a hockey game, Mary in sales will not. She would rather have a Swedish massage.

Also, effective recognition must come from an altruistic place. "To be an effective manager, your leadership style needs to become less about tangible outcomes and more about recognizing the overall impact of your employees' contributions," The Carrot Principle explains.

Rather than using recognition purely in order to increase performance, managers should consider using it because they want their employees to be happier people. Productivity and good connections between employees and managers will be natural byproducts of this.

One thing that managers need to remember is that their staffs are their brands. "Employees can build or pull down your market share," note the authors. Thus, employee engagement is important.

In order to create what the authors call Carrot Culture, managers need to determine the best ways to recognize their employees. This involves day-to-day validation, celebrations in the workplace for various events, and recognition when employees go above and beyond what is expected of them.

Throughout the book, fundamental tips are provided to help managers discover new ways in which they can help engage their employees. A guidebook with many helpful statistics, ideas, and stories, The Carrot Principle is a great tool that can turn even the direst of workplaces around with a little commitment on the part of a manager.


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