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The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their Employees, Retain Talent, and Drive Performance
by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton
Free Press, 176 pages, $14.28
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Recognizing employees is often relegated to sporadically rewarding individual efforts as opposed to creating a company wide carrot culture. The Carrot Principle uses the metaphor of a carrot to embody what employees really desire — to feel valued and be recognized accordingly. The book employs consistency, specificity, and timeliness into rewards programs, and any manager looking to boost morale while increasing profitability and productivity will welcome its lessons.

The Carrot Principle begins with a fascinating true story about Charles Goodyear's quest to stabilize rubber. After many failed attempts, he discovered that heat was the missing ingredient, an accelerator that transformed and stabilized rubber. "Accelerators work the same way in business, making the things you're doing work better, faster, and more smoothly, without throwing you (or your organization) off balance," write authors Gostick and Elton. Their quest for an accelerator is distilled into the carrot principle, which states that managers get better results by leading with carrots (employee recognition) instead of sticks (forcefulness). By doing this, managers achieve higher:

  • Productivity
  • Engagement
  • Retention
  • Customer satisfaction

Employee recognition revolves around respect, gratitude, and paying attention. A few of the more common forms of recognition are daily recognition, above-and-beyond recognition, and celebration events. According to the authors, it has to begin at the top of an organization because if leaders are viewed as all powerful and the people below them are thought of as expendable, these rationales, methods, and benchmarks won't succeed. The book describes the steps of implementing a rewards program and includes 125 specific reward types.

Based on an in depth management study with independent research from The Jackson Organization, The Carrot Principle will be an eye opener for managers who believe that recognizing employees regularly creates unrealistic expectations and a culture of entitlement. The findings here consistently defy conventional managerial wisdom and the book's infectious enthusiasm makes it an easy read. It's an effective tool that managers can consult to create and maintain a highly motivated, engaged workforce.

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