Recognizing and Rewarding small wins is the secret sauce to motivation and engagement

Recently, I read a book called The Progress Principle, which was written by two Harvard Business School professors, Teresa Amabile and Steven Cramer. The authors analyzed 12,000 diary entries from 238 subjects to get an in-depth picture of the subjects’ mentality, attitude, and internal personality.

They concluded that the common trait of highly successful subjects is that they are focused on achieving small victories – those tiny, daily progressions that don’t seem all that significant by themselves, but they eventually add up to big things.

The research showed that making measurable progress is a primary influence on people’s attitude at work, as well as their perceptions, emotions, and motivation, all of which influence daily performance in a major way. The main finding of the research was quite simple – Small wins ignite joy, motivation, and engagement.

Perhaps most importantly, small wins are aligned with the way our brains are built to learn: piece-by-piece, connection-by-connection, and rep-by-rep. Furthermore, by celebrating the small wins, you won’t feel a sense of disappointment at not having achieved your major goals quite yet. These little victories will keep you motivated to move onto the next small task and reach another small plateau of success.

I initially learned this concept in school at a young age when I received gold stars every day for my performance on spelling tests. The more stars I received, the happier I was, which made me unconsciously motivated to get even more stars. However, as I grew older, I apparently forgot this important lesson; behaviors that are recognized and rewarded will be repeated.

As the CEO for a Home Party Company, in order to stimulate my consultants and encourage their behavior to increase sales, I designed several contests to reward team members who had high sales totals.

To achieve that same goal of increased sales, I designed my “Fast Start” program, which rewarded those team members with high sales totals and multiple recruits. These contests effectively motivated the high achievers in the company, who often won these contests and reaped the benefits of the prizes and recognition.

Unfortunately, when the same handful of team members continued to win the contests, many of the other team members felt that it wasn’t even worth trying, as they lost faith that they could achieve those types of sales totals or beat out the best performers in the company.

I am not suggesting that sales contests and fast start programs are a bad strategy or that we should do away with them; instead, I am suggesting the use of the same game mechanics to recognize and celebrate gradual progress and small wins. In other words, creating systems and processes where everyone feels like a winner and understands that they are making admirable progress towards something that is meaningful.

It is important to consider the power of small wins, and what effect they may have on productivity, happiness, and efficiency. Are you celebrating progress and boosting the self-confidence of your workers by showing them that what they are doing is meaningful? After all, many new consultants begin their career feeling insecure because they are doing this for the first time.

Should we rethink our Fast Start programs?

Imagine how many more new consultants would stay rather than choose to quit, which would significantly increase retention, sales and profits.

Could the celebration of small victories be one of the secrets to cracking the retention drain?

Contact us to learn how the My Success Rocket Engagement & Retention Platform can turn your training from “blah” to an amazing, fun experience that actually spurs your consultants to action.