My husband drives me to the bus each morning and when we are awake enough to have coherent conversation we talk about what is on our schedule for the day. On recent times his schedule often includes a lot of herding cats or as he puts it "poking people with sticks." He doesn't' much like poking people with sticks. This reminded me of the old adage: "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."
So this morning I suggested he take a more gameful approach. I said how about you try some positive reinforcement instead. I suggested acknowledging those who gets their plans in early or at least before the deadline. He asked if he should use a leaderboard. Ummmm. Probably not. I reminded him that they can be demotivating and especially when he is dealing with managers who are already over-stressed it could make things worse. His scenario would probably not benefit from being competitive so much as from everyone seeing the value of working together and how their behavior impacts the overall process.
Instead I suggested some surprise emails. He said, "Oh I always respond and thank them." "That's great but how about some recognition?" Maybe this is the third straight time they have gotten their plan in early. Wow, they will think, someone noticed. Or maybe they were one of the first five to complete their plan and they hear how that helps other parts of the project stay on track. And let's up the stakes. Include their manager on the email. Providing some feedback to the senior manager benefits everyone in the email chain.
You would be surprised how much a little recognition means, particularly when it comes unexpectedly and from a non-traditional source. Years ago I taught a blended learning customer service course that included a feature called "Make My Day." Among other things, we were trying to raise the level of customer service that employees provided to each other internally. If someone went above and beyond we asked the participants to send an email with the subject line "You made my day." The email went to the person who had exceeded expectations, and to their manager, and to the facilitator. In the body of the email they would explain what the person had done that had been so valuable and appreciated. They had to be specific. What was the action and how had it made things better or easier for them or solved a problem.
During one of the sessions, a recipient of one of the emails spoke up and told the group how much she appreciated the email she received. She was practically in tears. She had worked at the company for about 30 years and this was the first time anything like this had happened. That, unfortunately, says something about the firm's culture but it shows how powerful peer and unexpected praise can be. She and the writer of the email built another link in their relationship chain and the others in the group got to see the impact and power of the praise. Win-win.
(Image from Hans https://pixabay.com/en/honey-honey-jar-honey-for-sale-5732/)