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Lessons in motivation from a two-year-old

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BIG THINKING

Lessons in motivation from a two-year-old

Ben Lorkin
Group Strategy Director
Hall & Partners Health

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We’ve been trying to encourage our two-year-old to brush her teeth. We’ve bought a sticker book. Every time she does a good job, she gets a gold star. It’s not working out so well. Well, the brushing is coming along fine, but she mostly eats the stickers!

Small steps and all. A few gold stars have actually made it into the book and she is getting better. She doesn’t always eat them. Sometimes she sticks them on her face. Or my face. Or Mummy’s face. But, yeah, mostly she eats them.

And while they might not always make it into the book, she is starting to get attached to those stickers. We ask her every night, “What do you need to do before bed?”. And she replies, “Stickers on Mummy and Daddy”. Small steps and all.

There’s nothing new in using stickers, or points, or something similar to encourage motivation. I once worked at a company where we even used grain to motivate us. Yep, actual grain. Grain bought from the supermarket and calculated so a single seed equated to a monetary value. In every Monday meeting, grain was poured into the grain jar to reflect sales. It really was as awkward as it sounds. Especially for our head of finance who had to calculate the correct grain-to-sales ratio each week!


That public endorsement went a long way to creating a culture where we all helped out whenever we could


To be fair, we also used stickers to recognise when people went above and beyond. And, although it was ‘just a sticker’, that public endorsement – that public thanks – went a long way to creating a culture where we all helped out whenever we could. A culture where we all went that little step further to edge up the sticker leader board because – and let’s be honest – nobody wants no stickers against their name!

At Hall & Partners, we have public shout-outs to acknowledge extra effort. They’re announced weekly to drinks and fanfare. We don’t – although maybe we should – have stickers. Shout-outs are great but a little subjective. Somewhat transient. They are said. They are celebrated. They are forgotten. They don’t have the same tangible impact of something physical like a sticker, although our ‘Value Awards’ go some way towards this recognising the creative, curious, courageous and collaborative with memorable experiences. That said, we have about 150 staff in the London office, so it would be a lot of stickers!

I was reminded recently of how powerful a little thing like a gold star can be. A difficult-to-please client sent an email with a smiley face to one of our team. The response was palpable. “Yes,” they shouted, “I just got a smiley face”. It genuinely made their day. Ok, the client is a millennial and their main mode of communication is emojis (joking … of course) but it makes the point nonetheless.

So, be it stars from your parents, emojis from a millennial or grain from finance, I guess the message that comes through is … never let the power of public endorsement be underestimated. And maybe a few more stickers in all our lives wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. Just don’t eat them.

 

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We’ve been trying to encourage our two-year-old to brush her teeth. We’ve bought a sticker book. Every time she does a good job, she gets a gold star. It’s not working out so well. Well, the brushing is coming along fine, but she mostly eats the stickers!

Small steps and all. A few gold stars have actually made it into the book and she is getting better. She doesn’t always eat them. Sometimes she sticks them on her face. Or my face. Or Mummy’s face. But, yeah, mostly she eats them.

And while they might not always make it into the book, she is starting to get attached to those stickers. We ask her every night, “What do you need to do before bed?”. And she replies, “Stickers on Mummy and Daddy”. Small steps and all.

There’s nothing new in using stickers, or points, or something similar to encourage motivation. I once worked at a company where we even used grain to motivate us. Yep, actual grain. Grain bought from the supermarket and calculated so a single seed equated to a monetary value. In every Monday meeting, grain was poured into the grain jar to reflect sales. It really was as awkward as it sounds. Especially for our head of finance who had to calculate the correct grain-to-sales ratio each week!


That public endorsement went a long way to creating a culture where we all helped out whenever we could


To be fair, we also used stickers to recognise when people went above and beyond. And, although it was ‘just a sticker’, that public endorsement – that public thanks – went a long way to creating a culture where we all helped out whenever we could. A culture where we all went that little step further to edge up the sticker leader board because – and let’s be honest – nobody wants no stickers against their name!

At Hall & Partners, we have public shout-outs to acknowledge extra effort. They’re announced weekly to drinks and fanfare. We don’t – although maybe we should – have stickers. Shout-outs are great but a little subjective. Somewhat transient. They are said. They are celebrated. They are forgotten. They don’t have the same tangible impact of something physical like a sticker, although our ‘Value Awards’ go some way towards this recognising the creative, curious, courageous and collaborative with memorable experiences. That said, we have about 150 staff in the London office, so it would be a lot of stickers!

I was reminded recently of how powerful a little thing like a gold star can be. A difficult-to-please client sent an email with a smiley face to one of our team. The response was palpable. “Yes,” they shouted, “I just got a smiley face”. It genuinely made their day. Ok, the client is a millennial and their main mode of communication is emojis (joking … of course) but it makes the point nonetheless.

So, be it stars from your parents, emojis from a millennial or grain from finance, I guess the message that comes through is … never let the power of public endorsement be underestimated. And maybe a few more stickers in all our lives wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. Just don’t eat them.

Ben Lorkin
Group Strategy Director
Hall & Partners Health

LinkedIn Email