Hot buttons.

We all have them.

Some of us crave attention. Others, money or reward. Others crave a sense of accomplishment, or freedom from limitations.

These hot buttons are things that motivate us, drive us to new levels of performance, bring smiles to our bosses, put more money in our pockets, and give our friends something to talk about at parties.

But here’s the interesting thing: not everyone has the same hot buttons.

It’s especially important for supervisors and managers to become aware of this distinction.

Many falsely believe that publicly thanking Susan for her great work on a project will motivate her to continue her greatness. Secretly, though, she just wants a raise.

A salesperson is hired to sell products. Most salespeople are driven by money – the commissions they make for selling those products. Sometimes when interviewed, candidates for sales positions will be asked what drives or motivates them. Generally, the answer that management expects is “money,” believing that the successful salesperson is always driven by money.  Sometimes, however, there are other forces at play as well.

Buttons can be found in different drawers

There are different kinds of buttons, different sizes and colors, and they can be found everywhere. A shrewd manager can find the right one at almost any time by looking in the right management drawer.

The money drawer

The money drawer is perhaps the best known. These buttons can represent many kinds of money and motivation: direct pay, commissions, bonuses, raises, incentive pay, overtime, and more. It is the first line of buttons, and it’s the biggest drawer in the sales office. Giving someone more money is just one way to motivate him or her.

But what other ways are there?

One salesperson was doing a great job, and it was clear that she was on her way to more money. But a conversation with her revealed that money was not her motivation. She was engaged in a regional sales contest, and the contest leaders had their names written on a wall poster. She wanted desperately to have her name on that poster.

Wow. She wanted recognition.

The recognition drawer

Recognition offers many different buttons, too. Almost everyone wants to be known for something, for some achievement or talent. What the manager needs to do is simply find a category where someone can achieve. The list is almost endless.

For example, recognition can be given to the person who gets in the office first every day, or stays the latest. It can be given to the individual with the best attendance, sells the most, or gets the most feedback from satisfied customers. It’s up to the imagination of the management team to come up with the right categories to drive the right performance.

In the field of sales, it’s easy.

Categories may include total revenue, percent of quota, number of new accounts, new product revenue, highest regional revenue, highest company/department revenue, highest average order size, most improved, etc.

The button format can be public recognition at a team, regional or department meeting. It can be as simple as a “thank you” from the manager (often a very powerful form of recognition, and too often overlooked). Or, as noted above, it can be a printed name on a wall poster.

Each of these buttons needs to be carefully thought out in terms of how it will be represented to the person involved: what is the reward for each category winner? Is it sufficient to motivate the desired performance? How hot do you want to make it?

In addition to money and recognition, what other drawers are there?

Some people are motivated by increased responsibility. They want to move up the food chain. Giving them chances to lead group meetings or share their “best practices” is often helpful in motivating them.

Increased responsibility can lead to promotion. This is a powerful button that combines added responsibility, recognition, and generally increased pay.

For those who just enjoy free time, giving them an extra day or two off, or even just an occasional afternoon, can be another powerful motivator. Freedom is a wonderful thing, and the cost to the company for lost hours is more than offset by the increased performance from more motivated employee.

All of these buttons have been used successfully in the past to achieve a wide range of performance improvements and personal satisfaction. It is up to the smart manager to become “buttoned down” by finding the right hot button for each employee.


Editor’s note: This was a guest post for TrackVia by Walt Couture


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