As leaders, we talk about employee rewards quite a bit. We use rewards to reinforce the behaviors we want to see. We use rewards to increase engagement and keep our teams energizing working towards our goals. But rewards don’t just work on our teams, they work on us too. After all, we are just human and the same things that keep our teams engaged can work equally well for us. Rewards can offer the extra push that you need to get motivated and stay engaged. And you can create positive reinforcement with rewards that creates lasting reinforcement of successful practices.
While the efficacy of awards might be much the same, the rewards themselves are quite different for leaders. All too often, I see leaders reward themselves with the wrong things. Whether you are the leader of the family, your church or your company, some rewards are constructive and positive bringing us closer to our goals, while other rewards are benign at best and destructive at worst. Think about the things you use to reward yourself. Are they things like food, alcohol, shopping or other things that tend to numb stress and anxiety? With the challenges we face as leaders, numbing difficult feelings and emotions is just a part of the human condition. So I’m not saying that you can’t have the cocktail at the end the day, the lavish meal out or the new computer you’ve been eyeing, just try not to use these to reward yourself.
So if the usual suspects with regard to rewards are not so effective, what kind of rewards really pay off for us as leaders? First we have to talk about what we mean by pay off. In this context, I mean which rewards are going to make us feel good long-term and not just in the moment. Which rewards contribute to our overall well being as a person and not just a leader. Which rewards help build the stamina we need to keep going and offer our teams and organizations our best? I think there are four rewards that we as leaders tend to forget that really feed us as people. What are they?
1. Time Off
As a leader, making the time to get away from our organizations is vital. All work and no play does indeed make Johnny a dull boy. Vacations and time with family and friends keep our batteries charged and our creativity and energy levels high.
2. Downtime With Our Teams
Sure, we spend quite a bit of time with the people in our organizations, but how much of that time is spent just being people? The relationships we build with our employees matter. Having rapport and a reserve of good feelings can get us through challenging times on the job and it creates loyalty. You cannot wait until you need them to establish these relationships. Not only does it do your employees good, it does you good. Whether it’s a good spirited competitive bowling tournament among your teams or departments, or a summer picnic, take time to be with your people with your leader hat off.
3. Fun Is Fundamental
If you can’t remember the last time you really had fun, you’re not having enough of it. Studies tell us that children learn best when playing and adults are much the same. Having fun can relax our brains making creativity and problem-solving more effective and efficient. It doesn’t matter where you find your fun, as long as it’s fun for you.
4. Do Nothing
As leaders, we often operate at a quick pace so making time to do nothing can seem counter intuitive. Spending time doing nothing is recuperative, restorative and helps feed our creativity by giving us the downtime they can help position us in the right direction for our next set of movements.
So don’t just use rewards to get the best from your teams, put rewards to work for your own purposes. Make sure you’re taking some time off periodically, spend some time having fun with your teams, make fun part of every week and make sure you spend some time doing nothing at all. What other rewards might you use to help keep you motivated and moving?