A savvy mentor told me early in my management career that people will always do what they have been given an incentive to do.

People may take a job because of the challenge it presents or because they enjoy the work. But ultimately they will show more spark and enthusiasm on the job when there is the promise of earning some kind of recognition or reward.

Of course, money isn’t the only incentive. Many companies are moving towards using innovative methods for motivating team members to peak performance. You don’t have to create a costly corporate program either.

In this article, I’ll tell you about an incentive program that motivated me in the past. Send me an e-mail and share your ideas as well. I’ll compile the best suggestions and reveal them in a future column. The person who sends in the most innovative idea for motivating a team will win a TechRepublic T-shirt. Hey, that’s not a bad incentive.

My manager used a Post-it Note to inspire me
The most motivational manager I ever worked for created her own very simple incentive program. When a team member performed over and above expectations, she would cut a circle out of a Post-it Note, and write “‘Atta boy” or “‘Atta girl” on it. Perhaps a sticky piece of paper doesn’t sound too enticing to you, but it gets better.

After creating the crude “award,” my former manager would call the entire team together, and present the Post-it with great pomp and circumstance. Once a staff member had earned 10 “’Atta Boy/’Atta Girl” awards, the Post-its could be traded in for lunch. Funny thing, I never knew anyone who traded them in. I still have those “‘Atta Boys,” and the ink on them has faded with time. We had one of the best performing teams I ever had the privilege of working with.

Other examples of motivational programs that I have seen range from the familiar to the bizarre:

  • Stock options
  • Extra vacations/holidays
  • All-expenses-paid family vacations
  • A chance to throw custard pies at the CEO

Share with us the best incentives you have created or received. Post a comment to this article or send me an e-mail. I will list the top 10 responses in an upcoming column, and the person submitting the best incentive will receive a TechRepublic T-shirt.