You get more of the behaviour that you Reward

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My stupid springer spaniel Toby had caught a small mouse.  It was almost drowning as he held it in his soft salivating mouth and he didn’t know what to do with it as it kept trying to escape. So, it was left to me to rescue the mouse, my wife was standing on the chair.  I extracted the mouse and put it in a small box so I could release it into the garden.  Before I did, I thought I would give the mouse some water and I found some cereal which I thought it would like, Toby watching me all the time with faithful yearning eyes.  After I’d freed the mouse, I looked at Toby and thought you silly old fool and gave him a hug.  I then thought I’d treat him to one of his favourite biscuits, after all the mouse had had a treat.

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You get more of the behaviour that you Reward

Next day Toby came to me, tail wagging with a mouse in his mouth, a different one, I think.

You get more of the behaviour that you Reward

What has this got to do with Leadership?  As a leader you have clear objectives, one will be to create and develop an excellent customer service culture.

Let’s say that a member of your team has behaved badly in front of an important client.  She was under pressure to answer questions in a client meeting and lost her temper, resorting to using very bad language.

A colleague reported this to you with the recommendation that she should be disciplined.  You talked to your HR expert and decided to get more information about the incident.  This proved difficult as staff were reluctant to ‘grass’ on a colleague and also they were located in offices around the UK.  However, you yourself were under pressure, the end of year accounts were due, you had two major projects which needed your urgent attention, also you had a short vacation booked with your family.  Inevitably, the incident drifted into the long grass and you were slightly relieved, you hate confrontation.  Coincidentally the lady in question was asked to represent the company at a conference in Dubai.  This decision was taken before the incident. 

About six weeks later you were surprised and dismayed to hear that a trusted colleague had attended a client meeting having clearly had an intoxicating lunch and the client had complained.  You needed to act.

At the discipline meeting you were reminded of the previous incident were no action was taken and indeed she had just returned from an expenses paid jaunt to Dubai.


Lets Reflect

You get more of the behaviour that you Reward

By not acting quickly in the first instance you inadvertently undermined your attempts to create an excellent customer service culture.

We need to be very thoughtful the way we reward people and be careful that we don’t inadvertently reward the behaviour we are trying to change.

For example:  Its late on a Friday afternoon and you get an urgent request to produce a report by Monday morning.   You need help.  Who do you ask to help, which means working over the weekend?  Do you ask the steady reliable colleague or the guy who is often unhelpful, always looking busy but you suspect is skiving?  You ask Mr Reliable.

So who is rewarded, Mr Skivy is happy he didn’t get lumbered and enjoyed his weekend.  Will he continue with his unhelpful behaviour, why wouldn’t he?  

Mr Reliable produced a good third of the report, although you did have to mention to him that he had made a couple of spelling mistakes and a small error in some number.  You were able to deliver the report on time and were thanked.   Mr Reliable ……? and he fell out with his wife. How motivated will he be next time?


The Culture of any Organisation is Shaped by the Worst Behaviour the Leader is prepared to Tolerate.