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What People Want more than Sex and Money

InTouch - Newsletter - #46

Welcome to the forty-sixth edition of "In-Touch". As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please reply back in the comments below and let me know what you think.

Story of the Week: What People Want more than Sex and Money.

“The only consistent thing about her was her inconsistency.” Spyros told me.

“Even after I’d corrected her time and time again,” he told me, “she still got the furniture quantities wrong, the colour of chairs wrong, she even made mistakes with my name and address. The quotations kept changing. Basically, everything she did was wrong.”

Almost everyone in my friend's shoes would have filed a complaint to the sales rep’s manager. However, he actually did the very opposite and, instead of criticising the representative’s performance, in an email to her manager he praised her for providing an amazing customer experience.

“Why on earth did you do that?” I asked him, “She didn’t do anything to deserve even the smallest compliment.”

“You are right there,” he told me. “But guess what happened after I sent that email. She never made another mistake. From that moment on, she was transformed from being mediocre into a meticulously efficient representative. Names, quantities, quotations – all perfect.”

So, what happened? How did this seemingly miraculous transformation come about?

The answer can be found in the views expressed by three distinguished – and very diverse – people: Mary Kay Ash, Dr. Tali Sharot and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

According to the celebrated American businesswoman Mary Kay Ash, “There are two things that people want more than sex and money – recognition and praise.”

It has, indeed, been observed that when we are told we are good at something, we are automatically motivated to work harder at it in order to become even better.

Research by the acclaimed neuroscientist, Dr. Tali Sharot, indicates that ‘positive reinforcement’ may be a more powerful tool for changing behaviour than punishment. Similarly, positive feedback helps make people more committed to a goal.

The German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe notably said, “Look at a man the way he is and he only becomes worse, but look at him as if he were where he could be, then he becomes what he should be.”

Helping an unaware under-performer improve their work requires some clever thinking. My friend evidently saw the customer representative as she could be and, through his remarkable action, made her become what she should be. 

I’m still trying to work out how he came to think that way and I suspect that his strategy would not work in every case: others might simply continue on their inefficient path, encouraged that they were doing a good job. However, it’s also perhaps worth remembering something that people have been told for centuries when reading Aesop’s fable ‘The Lion and the Mouse’: “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Sometimes, acting in a way that appears to be completely counter-intuitive can lead to remarkable outcomes. My friend took a chance on kindness, praise and recognition, which led to a positive result for all. Maybe all of us, especially leaders and managers, should give it a try sometime.

Words of Wisdom

Kindness as a creator

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.”

Lao Tzu

A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

“How can I frame my feedback to include more kindness?”