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February 08, 2013

Rewards can reduce motivation

We have utilised a big portion of our time this week talking about rewards and recognition. I will be focusing on reward in this blog and I will focus on recognition in a subsequent blog. A reward is simply something that is given in recognition of service, effort or achievement. From the definition, it can be brain numbing to come to the fact that reward does not lead to increased job performance. Its mind bugling for me because I do not see a problem in grafting extra hard at work to get extra stipend. In a research titled 'overjustification hypothesis' conducted by Lepper, Greene and Nisbett (1973). In the experiment, 51 children aged between 3- 4, with an interest in drawing were selected to see what effect reward will have when children are already fond of an activity. In this case it was significant that the children have an interest in drawing.

Children drawing

The selected children were then divided into three groups and given the following information and conditions:

  1. The first group were told that they would get a seal with a certificate if they took part (Expected reward).
  2. The second group would receive the same reward as group one, but they did not know about it (Surprise reward).
  3. In the third group, children in this category expected no reward, and did not receive one.

Each child was invited into a room to draw for 6 minutes and then given their reward or not (depending on the given condition). As the experiment progressed, the children were closely monitored to see how much they will continue to draw of their own accord. The children in the first group who expectedto be rewarded for the activity, lost interest once they expected to be rewarded. Infact, judges rated the pictures drawn by the children expecting the reward in the first group to be less aesthetically pleasing. In comparison, the children in the second group who were not expecting to be rewarded performed twice better than the first group, and there was no significant statistical difference between the second group and the third group.

Lepper et al (1973) experiment reminds me of my previous career. In my previous profession, there was a handful of courses that employees could volunteer to go on and get rewarded for. For example, some specialist courses can give an employee an extra £200 pound a month on top of their basic salary. So the more courses employees could get themselves on, the more money they will get. The resulting effect was that employees were coming back from these specialist courses and they were not putting their newly acquired skills into practise, and this was largely due to the fact that they did it for the money. Before I forget to mention, I was one of them.

So to you future leaders and MBE prodigy's, reward can also lead to a reduction in motivation. For the prospective fathers and mothers, perhaps one learning point from Lepper et al (1973) is that rewarding your children for good behaviour does not always mean that they will be well-behaved behind close doors.

Lepper, M. R., Greene, D., &Nisbett, R. E. (1973). Undermining children's intrinsic interest with extrinsic rewards: A test of the “overjustification” hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 129–137.


January 31, 2013

Definition of a Leader

My group and I have been looking at the definition of a leader and I must admit the exercise was very interesting. With the aid of an analysis matrix we critically looked at the elements of a leadership definition from a list of 20. From the result of our analysis matrix we derived some key characteristics of a leader namely:

  1. Influence.
  2. Effective relationship
  3. Result-driven
  4. Visionary

We defined leadership as " a process of social influence whereby a one person employs the help of others towards the achievement of a common purpose and goals". Most of the definitions that we arrived at in class was very similar to each other. However, I have been reflecting on all definitions and none of them tried to distinguish effective leaders from good leaders. For example, from our definition Lance Armstrong can be classed as a leader simply because he was influential. He was able to influence his team mates to indulge in a doping culture. I read his autobiography almost 4 years ago (it is not about the bike) and I was very inspired.

Lance was also able to build relationshipswith different entities through his cancer charity. He has raised over $15 million dollars for cancer research and although retired, he helped to get kids off the streets and gave them direction by introducing them to professional cycling. Apart from being a visionary, he was also results orientated. He won the Tour de France 7 times, it is hard enough winning it once. Well we all know the Lance Armstrong controversy. He was recently labelled a drug cheat and some have called him a monster. Whatever he has been called, he his still very much a leader from our definition.

Individuals have tried to find a solution to the problem by distinguishing effective leadership from good leadership. I do not think they should be a phrase such as bad leadership. If you are bad then you should not be referred to as a leader. I do not think there should be any negativity associated to the leadership terminology.

As a student of Business Excellence, I decided to look at what the EFQM Excellence Model would define as leadership. Excellent organisations have leaders who shape the future and make it happen, acting as role models for its values and ethics and inspiring trust at all times (EFQM, 2013). The challenge now for us as MBE students is to try to integrate values, integrity and ethics into our definition of leadership.


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