Forget the carrot – a unique look at motivating and managing staff

This article was posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Problem: A stubborn, lazy ass needs to be motivated into action.

Solution: Tie a carrot to the end of a stick; dangle it above and just out of reach of the ass you are trying to mobilise.

Key success factors: The ass must like carrots and the ass must be stupid.

Outcome: A blinkered stupid ass moving forward trying to reach an unattainable goal.


Hmmm, I wonder who the real ass is in the above situation.

This ridiculous adage and a really difficult week brought me to the realisation that I needed a new metaphoric crutch to inspire my staff motivational and management tactics. Enter the wooden spoon.

What does the wooden spoon mean to you:

  • A mock award or a real award given to a person or team in last position?
  • The draconian mother’s punishment weapon of choice when good manners and behaviour were believed best taught through hard lessons?
  • A simple humble kitchen implement used for centuries by generations in the creation of culinary delights?

The wooden spoon is my carrot replacement. It is representative of the choices managers are faced with each time they are called upon to motivate or discipline staff.

If we choose to focus on the negative; the mistakes and poor performance without instilling the hope of faring better in the future. If we humiliate and lord position or simply settle for less than the potential offers we are creating defeatist asses who will comfortably chase a dangling carrot on the road to nowhere. This management style is akin to handing out the wooden spoon award.

If we choose to manage by fear, our aggression will evoke either flight or fight reactions. If we mete out our will through threat of consequence, we risk breaking spirits (and the wooden spoon) and we may end up with asses who no longer even remember the taste of carrot a.k.a. corporal or corporate punishment with a wooden spoon.

But if we choose to put the wooden spoon in the hands of those we lead, we stimulate creativity and innovation and we demonstrate that the outcome of the engagement is determined by imagination and skill. Because at the end of each day we are all the creators of our own destiny; in life and work; we can choose to stir shit or bake a chocolate cake. We hold the wooden spoon.

And have you ever seen an ass holding a wooden spoon?

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