Common reward systems, and society in general, teach us to admire results, not necessarily habits and behavior. Although this works fairly OK sometimes, pushing everyone to give more and more good results, there is a huge problem behind this system — excellent results can hide a story of many bad decisions and behaviors.
Think about a farm manager that asks his employees to deliver him at the end of the month a certain amount of profit. He will reward them only if they reach that goal. The farmers and sales staff decide to just go ahead and reach the goal, and in the process they compromise the quality of the product they are marketing and also the sustainability of the farms. In their eagerness to achieve the goal, the farmers harvest all they can, even when some of the product is still not ripe or ready for selling, and the marketing staff overworks distributers. At the end of the month they reach the target revenue, but do so by compromising the revenue for the months to come and also the quality of life of many employees. Does that sound right? Not to me.
This is why it is important that we realize that result-based rewards have their place and time, but they are only good if they reward positive behavior. A scientist that discovers the cure for a letal disease should be rewarded only if the process by which he/she discovered this cure was not harmful or immoral. This way we are promoting work habits that lead to good results through good methods.
Apply this in your house! Don’t obsess over your child getting straight A’s in school, but rather teach your child to enjoy learning and how to take pride on his work. An A+ at school may hide cheating or questionable persuasion, but taking pride in our finished work is something that will drive your child to work more efficiently and produce better work if well taught.
Always recognize small changes in behavior, because these will be key for long term success.
The art of giving rewards lies on picking the right habit to reward, and then coming up with a system that will allow us to do so. Be creative, learn from other programs, and find a way to do so. This will make us much better influencers when we use rewards. At the end of the day, though, try not to reward excessively since it may make it lose value, but do recognize every improvement one way or another. People need the encouragement of knowing that their progress is being appreciated. 🙂