Back in my early printing sales days, I would spend a lot of time on the telephone working with clients regarding their color proofs. I’ve always been a doodler. While on the telephone, I would create cartoon doodles of stick people. One stick person would be pictured playing a prank on another stick person. For instance, the smaller person pulling a chair out when the larger sat down or a bucket of water rigged to a chair dumping on the larger when they sat down. Some of them were nice enough to hang by my desk on the wall…until my boss figured out that he was the larger of the two. I know it was a bit juvenile, but it was my way of coping with being the stick person. So what does this have to do with human resources? Let me explain.
A mentor once told me a story about some campers or some explorers who were traveling through the wilderness with their burros or donkeys (obviously I was paying close attention). They came to a river they had to cross and didn’t have much time before dark. They also knew the burros didn’t care for walking through rushing river waters. They tried pulling the donkeys, but couldn’t get them to budge. They tried pushing, but the donkeys didn’t care. Desperate to cross, they tried to coerce the donkeys by poking them on the backside with a stick. Just at that time an old prospector came along with is donkey and asked them what the problem was. They explained that regardless of how they tried to force the donkeys across the river, the donkeys would not cooperate. The prospector laughed and said “That’s right, you won’t get them to cross with a stick!” The old man let go of his donkey, scratched under it’s chin, whispered in it’s ear, pulled a carrot from his pocket, broke off a piece and gave the donkey a little nibble. Showing the rest of the carrot to the donkey, the prospector walked through the river and the donkey immediately followed and received the rest of his treat on the other side.
Here is the HR angle. There are carrot people and there are stick people. There are also those who need a little of both. I know some people need motivated by the stick and that’s okay for them. As for me; I am not a stick person, but I’ll forge through rushing waters for a carrot! You can’t coach every player the same and you can’t manage that way either. When in doubt, lean toward the carrot.