September 28, 2010

The Tyranny of Carrot and Stick

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

Nearly all businesses are built on the principles of carrot and stick, or incentives and disincentives.

I hate the term “carrot and stick” because it makes out that I’m an ass and I don’t know any person that wants to be a donkey (please don’t Google “I want to be a donkey,” your computer will melt).

The problem of incentives e.g. bonuses is that they can:

i)    Foster short-term thinking;

ii)   Become addictive and encourage excessive risk taking;

iii)  Encourage cheating, shortcuts and unethical thinking.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out what that could do to a company, industry or even an economy but the reason companies use bonus incentives is that they’re:

a) clear and understandable; and

b) easy to measure.

But in my experience, and according to Daniel Pink author of the New York Times Bestseller “Drive”, bonuses work best when the task is routine (and dare I say it boring) e.g. report filling.  So, what happens if the tasks are a bit more complex?

It’s up to us to be a bit more creative.

From the moment we learn to talk we quickly realise that the most annoying word we can say to a parent is, “why?”

It’s the same when we’re adults – no boss wants to be asked, “why are you asking me to do this?”

So if you’re the boss or a team leader how would you respond?  Your job is to create a compelling purpose that goes beyond the task.

I was speaking to a company that makes windows last week; how do you make that more compelling?

Well their product keeps people safe and warm, saves money, saves electricity, helps the environment, and adds value to people’s homes.

The reason people will buy their product is not because of the price or the fact that they are fit for purpose – every window company can compete on price and the specification of a window.

The reason that people buy from them is that they trust them because the customer knows that they will do anything and everything to deliver on their promise.   This level of customer service is highly prized.  If we can do that for our customers, are we also doing it for our people?

So why do your people work for you?  The reason a person will work for you and will be intrinsically motivated to work hard is because they know that their company cares for them, will pay them fairly, will listen to them, look after them, encourage them, will not berate them when they make a mistake but help them to achieve their potential.  They work for you because you will allow them flexibility in how they do their job by giving them autonomy to do their job in a way that is good for them and good for your company and your customers.   In short, they work hard because they trust you that you will deliver on your promises that you are there for the long term and you will look after them and develop them for the long term.

So when the task is routine, sure, give them a bonus.  But if you start to use bonuses simply because they are easy and measurable, rather than creating a compelling purpose for your people to do their job, you may end up with people who are only looking out for themselves, and we all know what that can lead to…

My Editor for years told me that all employees needed was incentives and that bonuses work, that our economy was built on carrot and stick. But my experience becoming a stand-up and getting to know other comics (many of who don’t get paid for their trials) taught me that there is more to motivation than incentives.

A comic gets up on stage for a different reason, they are intrinsically motivated to perform. Nearly all comics realise that it could take many, many years before they earn a penny from comedy, yes they love the feedback from a crowd, but many are just as proud when after many hours of thinking they manage to craft a good gag.  The truth is they have a purpose and that’s what drives them.  What sense of purpose can you give your people?

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.

September 26, 2010

Customer Satisfaction Survey

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

After months of meticulous research, here are my findings:


Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.

September 22, 2010

I’ve Packed My Bags…

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

Right, I’ve booked my ticket to Delhi. With everyone pulling out of the Commonwealth Games, I reckon I have a pretty good chance of winning a gold medal (ok, possibly bronze).

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.

  • Filed under: Blog Posts — marchogan @ 12:04 pm
September 10, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful 2

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

Famous psychologist Martin Seligman (Wiki him) has spent his life studying depression and his theory of learned helplessness is highly regarded.

In animals learned helplessness occurs when it is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

When people feel that they have no control over their situation, they may also begin to behave in a helpless manner. This inaction can lead people to overlook opportunities for relief or change.

Sound familiar? How many people do you know who complain a lot about their job but don’t do anything to change it?

You see I believe being optimistic in the face of adversity is the first step in overcoming learned helplessness.

So for the next week before you go to sleep could you jot down three things that went well today, no matter how small for example “traffic was ok today”.

“THREE things?!” I hear you cry “Three good things! You’re mad!”

Ok what about two?

Still too much?

OK, one little thing you miserable so and so!

When you do stand up comedy remembering one big laugh is worth 20 uncomfortable silences.

Of course your Editor could be saying “I don’t believe in any of this new age rubbish” (feel free to substitute rubbish  with your own favourite word!).

That’s fine don’t bother, of course if it’s even possible you recognise the theory of learned helplessness in yourself, you might want to try something, anything different!

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.

September 3, 2010

Reasons To Be Cheerful 1

In August 2008 Marc Hogan was bet £1 that he couldn’t become a stand up comic in less than 12 months and perform a one man comedy show at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival in August 2009 for 21 nights. He won the bet!

Today I was giving my “Funny Business” talk and at the end I was chatting to the various delegates. One of them said to me (let’s call him Dave).

“It’ s ok for the like of you to talk about your 7 Keys to Success, but I don’t want to be successful in my job, in fact I hate my job!”

“Ok, can you be a bit more specific about what you hate?”

“Everything” he said.

“Dave, you can’t hate everything! So you’re telling me you hate your boss, your colleagues, your wages, your company car, the office cappuccino bar, your pension plan, your private healthcare, your company iphone that you can make private calls on, the office décor, the pretty people who work downstairs….”

“Alright, I don’t hate everything,” Dave reluctantly agreed.

“Because lets face it, you’re not working in a sweatshop in India or that electronics factory in China with the massive suicide rate, or as a traffic warden, or even worse you could be the Chancellor.”

“Ok, ok, perhaps my job isn’t too bad, but it’s not how I want to spend the rest of my life.”

“Who says you have to. Can I ask you a question? What do you really want to do?”

“Your job seems pretty cool.”

“So why don’t you go and do it then?”

“I couldn’t give up my job.”

“Neither could I when I started, I presented to university students for free, started a yahoo group, then presented to people at weekends.”

“I don’t have anything to talk about”

“That’s your Editor talking.  What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies? What are you interested in? What courses could you go on and the teach others what you have learned?”

“I don’t have the time.”

“Ok, so you sort of hate your job, but you won’t invest the time so you can have the job you really want. Remember Key 1 opportunities are all around us, and Key 3 ask and you’ll receive. If you really want to do something different, and you ask for help you can find the time to achieve your goal…”  

“I suppose.”

“There is no suppose about it. The only way you’ll end up with a different career is if you do something about it! Let’s make it easy for you, what one thing is the biggest pain in your job?”

“The company won’t let us log onto Facebook. They say it negatively affects productivity, which is rubbish I would only log on at lunchtime or near the end of the day for a few minutes at most.”

“Ok, I’ve got some research that shows one of the things that motivates people most is autonomy, logging onto Facebook for a few minutes could be part of that, I’m also sure there is a lot of research on the web that would show that productivity would increase if you gave people some relaxation time on the web. What if we were to write a proposal to trial Facebook access to a group of people and monitor it to see average use, and whether it affects productivity?”

“They won’t listen.”

“That’s your Editor talking again, if it’s an important issue they will see if other people in the office feel the same. It’s not about complaining or moaning; it’s about coming up with a proposal that highlights the benefits to make it win-win. Trust me, if your proposal is good enough and you go to the right people someone will eventually listen.”

“OK, I’ll give it a go!”

He walked off smiling. Now I don’t know what will happen next, but I do know that if you want things to change in your work, you have to change them, and nothing in work is as bad as it seems.

Click here to watch Marc’s showreel. If you would like to find out more about Marc, visit www.marchoganlive.com or to book him for a speaking event please contact your favourite speaker bureau.