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Management By Stick, By Carrot, Or By Inspiration? Which Do You Use?

Several years ago a man named Stan Slap introduced me to the concept of managing by stick, by carrot, or by inspiration. I have found that there are times and seasons for each style. However, one in particular is the most effective. Which one are you?

Management by Stick

Management by stick is a very authoritarian style of management. If you hit me with a stick, I will move. If you hit me again, I will move again. Even the threat of using a stick can cause me to move. If you can make the pain of staying greater than the pain of moving, I will move. This style of management really does work. But it’s a very high maintenance style of management. It requires a lot of time and energy to maintain.


And at some point, your arm will get fatigued, and your people will feel “beat up” and leave. So using the style of management as a regular, long-term strategy will not get the results you hope for.


However, there are times when a leader needs to be decisive. For the good of the organization, s/he needs to step up and draw a line in the sand. Holding people accountable for roles and responsibilities is critical to keep the organization moving forward. So you should consider this a tool to be used when needed (but with great discretion).


Management by carrot

Management by carrot is a rewards based management style. If you do this, I will give you a bonus. Rewards can be powerful in promoting specific behavior and results. When using rewards it’s critical to make sure there is alignment with responsibility. It’s also critical to use the right kind of reward.


But be careful. If you give me a job, but I don’t have the proper tools or skills, or don’t have access to the right people or resources, or don’t have the time I need, then it really doesn’t matter what the reward is because I’ll never get it. So I’ll simply give up.


Another problem with rewards is that they can become expected compensation over time. So there might be a temptation to increase them to keep up the same level of enthusiasm. Thus costs can spiral out of control and people can become angry when they are not achieved.


So you should consider this a tool to be used when needed (but with great discretion).


At TranStrategy Partners, we categorize incentives into three areas: 1. Review, 2. Rewards, and 3. Recognition. We call them the 3 R’s of motivation. All three can be used as powerful motivators.



Management by Inspiration

People want to be led, not managed. An inspirational leader shows the team the destination they want to get to. S/he lets them know the specific roles and responsibilities expected to get them there. Each team member knows how their piece of the puzzle contributes to the entire picture, and they also understand that the puzzle will not be complete without their particular piece.


The inspirational leader in essence says, “This is where we are all going. It’s a really great place. And here’s why it’s a great place for all of us to go. But I can’t get there without you. So join with me and let’s do this together.” People get energized through inspiration. Inspirational energy creates focus. Focus intensifies effort and creates momentum. That momentum acts like a heat seeking missile, never deviating from hitting the target.


In Conclusion

A good leader should selectively employ the leadership style and tools that will ultimately get the organization to its goals. And that means that all three leaders styles should be available and employed as needed to get the right results. Having said that, predominantly using “leadership by inspiration” is by far the most effective long-term means of achieving success.


What is your leadership style? Need help understanding that? Call me. We have excellent tools to help…