Missed Opportunities in Culture Development — Impact Rewards

Big Red Car here.  Super Bowl Sunday, ya’ll.  Hope you have a great time.

Low clouds, windy, 45F and going to get colder as the day progresses — a damn good day to huddle around the fire and watch the Super Bowl.  This is what passes for winter in the ATX.

A few months ago the InterWeb was all atwitter about the development of company culture.  We talked about it here.

Pearls of Company Culture — Cultured Pearls? 

Testing Company Culture

Company Culture, An Anecdote 

Essential Ingredients in a Robust Company Culture

Company Culture — Outcomes

Company Culture — Roles

Company Culture, an Anecdote About Empowerment

Company Culture — the Power of Ritual

Company Culture, an Anecdote About Trophies

Company Culture — Communication

Company Culture — the Power of Empowerment and Self Determination

Company Culture — Investments in People

Company Culture — Clear Definition

Company Culture — the Invisible Hand

 We discussed the notion that part of any robust company culture was the opportunity to create a powerful talisman signifying the type of behavior one wants to see repeated in their company.  We spoke in terms of trophies.

A slight variation on this theme is the opportunity to harness the idea of impact rewards as a tool to inoculate the company with behaviors which are desired to be repeated.  This is based on the simple idea that what is rewarded will be observed and repeated by others.

I will call this Impact Rewards.  [Hey, Big Red Car, you already called it impact awards.  Pay attention, please.  STFU, Big Red Car.]

When you fail to do this, you miss an opportunity to reinforce such behavior.


An example of this missed behavior is when you miss the opportunity to identify, acknowledge and reinforce the “firsts” in your company.

WTF is a “first”, Big Red Car?

A specific example might be the first substantial sale by a new salesperson.

Or the first investment banking “cradle to grave” deal wherein the young investment banker — having obtained all of his licenses, no small undertaking — pitches a deal, makes the book, gets the assignment, prepares the docs, works with the sales syndicate, gets the deal sold and then closes the deal.

In both of these examples, the company wants this behavior to be repeated, repeated and repeated.  And why the Hell not?

Hey, Big Red Car, how do we “do” this?

Oh, Grasshopper, you already know how to do it.

1.  Create a talisman which has a trophy quality to it.  Such as an eagle head or some other “hood ornament of life” type trophy.  This way when someone else sees it the legend spreads and multiplies.

2.  Add a bit of an emolument — that just means something of value — to it like a nice little check or gift card.

3.  Don’t miss the opportunity to create something that will also be seen, acknowledge and appreciated by a spouse.  This will multiply the positive benefits — trust me on this one.  [Why the Big Red Car likes restaurant gift cards.]

It is really just that damn simple.  It just takes a thimbleful of thoughtfulness to make it work like a champ.

And, as we well know, you are a very thoughtful CEO, right?

Catch someone doing something good.  Give them an impact reward.  Multiply and inculcate good behaviors — desirable behaviors — in your company and build a robust company culture.  Or, you could get a foosball machine and a keg of beer.  Your choice.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Enjoy the Super Bowl and put your money on Denver.



2 thoughts on “Missed Opportunities in Culture Development — Impact Rewards

  1. I’m married to Adolescent Psychologist (I am Mr. Dr. Jules) – and she applauds this article. Her research was the application of the “Good Behavior Game” in developing countries. You know what? Rewarding good behavior, publicly – works! The behavior is repeated! And, intermittent reinforcement is just fine – in other words, you don’t have to reward the behavior every time.

    Of course, this works in the business world as well.

    The flip side is that all repeated behavior has a reward aspect – even self destructive ones. Have an employee who skips out early, takes long lunches and shirks responsibility? Ask yourself – what is his reward for doing this? (My wife would say “the function of their behavior.) Figure it out, and work to break the cycle by rewarding the behavior you want to see, and minimize their rewards for doing the behavior you don’t want to see.

    Chaining them to the desk, docking their pay, humiliation and a host of other rookie management mistakes never work.

    • .
      I agree more with you (and your wife) more than you do with yourself.

      What we recognize and reward, we get more of.

      I would caution consistency and fairness so that no employee finds the boss playing favorites. This is an important consideration and with a bit of humor can pay a big dividend.

      I used to like giving an employee I had caught doing something good a cash reward — usually $500 — in person at a company meeting. I used to have HQ company meetings monthly around a holiday or birthday celebration.

      [Pro tip: I used to track employment anniversaries religiously and always made it a point to celebrate 5+ year anniversaries without fail.]

      People would ask me what had the person done to earn the reward and I would say: “Ask her.”

      This simple act would ensure gobs of communication and a bit of envy but it always reinforced the behaviors I wanted. It worked like a charm because the employee provided the testimonial rather than my pontificating.

      People are much grander than anyone wants to believe when well motivated, recognized, appreciated and rewarded. On a $500K payroll, the well spent $500 may be a game changer.

      I wouldn’t say it if I hadn’t done it and reaped the benefits.


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