Do you believe that people only respond to two basic motivations, punishment and reward?
If that's the case, then punishment should be an effective motivator, right? People will do whatever they have to do to avoid punishment, right?
Fear certainly does effect behavior. A strong leader may create an atmosphere where people will do what they are expected to do to avoid punishment. Fear may prod some people into towing the line. They will do what they are told to do. But, they will likely do no more.
Fear creates a lowest common denominator mentality. Of course we do not want to be punished so of course we will do whatever it takes to avoid that punishment. Sometimes, whatever it takes creates side-effects that leaders don't want, don't count on, and don't deal with effectively. It can spiral into an non-virtuous cycle of failure.
No leader really wants that.
Here's one of the biggest problems with leading by punishing:
People find ways to get even with those who punish them.
Maybe it is by doing less work. Maybe it is by treating customers with the same punitive mentality that team members experience. Maybe it is something far worse -- something along the lines of sabotage, theft, or destruction.
Why take that chance? Why trigger that response?
Centered leaders find ways to help motivate team members without punishing them.
Is that easy? No. Raised in a world of rewards and punishment, it is so easy to push one of those two buttons again and again. But the punishment button has side-effects we simply do not need and do not want.
What can you do instead?
-- Douglas Brent Smith