Avoiding Burnout, by Richard, Management, Motivation

Instant gratification: the ultimate motivator

1 Comment 07 September 2011

Of all the reasons my wife may have had for marrying me nearly 25 years ago, being ultra handy around the house is not among them.

That fact notwithstanding, last weekend I decided to pressure wash our house. The all-white structure has a large expanse of siding at the back that faces due north, and is therefore hospitable territory to a gray-green coating of mold and algae. Although the heat index was in the triple digits, I was actually looking forward to the task. And I knew why.

It’s the same reason that I actually enjoy mowing the lawn, even though there’s a fully capable onsite teenager, who would do it more often if I’d let him. The reason I like these tasks so much, and eschew others, like laundry and disinfecting toilets? Instant gratification.

Every swipe of the pressure washing nozzle was like applying graffiti in reverse. Expend labor – see result. It was magnificent! And enough to keep me at it in less than ideal conditions until the job was done. At which point I stood at the back of the house gazing up and admiring my handiwork.

We all need at least a little instant gratification at work, too. A strong need to know that what we do makes a difference. Some jobs come with this feature onboard. With others, this feeling of accomplishment is more elusive.

If you lead others, and help manage and design their work, here’s an assignment:

  • Pick one job you manage and assess it for instant gratification potential. Does it happen often, occasionally, rarely, or never?
  • If the answer is rarely or never, change that. Build into the job at least the occasional opportunity to see the fruits of the labor that goes into it.
    • Give back office people some direct customer contact.
    • Balance sales professionals’ account portfolios of tough customers with a few easier sales.
    • If the task is an intermediate step in a process, let them at least see the finished product and have a clear understanding of the part they played in it.
    • Make sure no job is all frustration – no fulfillment.
  • Once you’ve had a little immediate gratification with this experiment, do the same with the other jobs under your direction.

We all need to see the needle move from time to time. It’s part of what keeps us going.


Richard Hadden is a leadership speaker, author, and consultant who helps organizations improve their business results with a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the acclaimed business classic Contented Cows Give Better Milk, and Contented Cows MOOve Faster, and the brand new book Rebooting Leadership, written with Meredith Kimbell. Learn more about them and their work at ContentedCows.com.

- who has written 56 posts on Contented Cows.

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1 comment

  1. test says:

    I really like your writing style, fantastic information, thank you for posting . “Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility.” by Johathan Edwards.

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

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A Road Warrior's Leadership Test - Richard's article in Progressive Dairyman Canada Click here