How to motivate your people, not your cocker spaniel


Pavlov rewarded animals his studies with food.  Studies have been done on dogs, chimps and dolphins and they’ve all responded conveniently to both positive and negative motivation.  We learned this in 5th grade social studies and shame on the people that taught us to take this type of motivation into our jewelry stores.  We forget that our teams are not animals whose primary objective in life is to stay alive.  We have emotions, needs, ideals, values and a conscience.

“How do I get my staff motivated?”  is what I hear so often.  And this question usually comes after many thousands of dollars are wasted by jewelers trying both negative and positive reinforcement.  Yelling at them costs you tons of money.  Unattainable goals have a negative effect and cost you money.  Telling them they have to sell more doesn’t work, you know this because you’ve tried it.  And finally, paying them more isn’t always the answer. You wanted to hear that one didn’t you?

In Susan Fowler’s Book Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work…and What Does, she discusses three primary motivations:

Control – We need to feel control in life.  A baby exhibits this when they don’t want the spoon of baby food you’re offering so she turns her head to take control of what’s going or not going into her mouth.   In the jewelry store, our people need a sense of control.  This comes with involving people in plans, promotions, stock purchases, communication, the repair process.  The more top-down you build your systems, the more they will feel they’re “working for the man”. The more you involve them in the process and allow them some control, the more buy-in you’ll have.

Relation – They need a sense of community where there are no ulterior motives. They need to exist in a world where they can be free to be themselves and have a friend in the workplace without feeling like they’re being manipulated by a social committee or HR.  They want to be heard and they want to know that they matter.  Babies exhibit this when they are learning to speak and you’re not looking at them.  They actually grab your face to get your entire focus on them and what they’re saying. Your people spend most of their days in your store and you need to provide an atmosphere of acceptance, friendship and respect.

Competence – People need to be continually growing and learning, if not they begin to feel stagnant. Children incessantly ask Why? Why? Why?. If your store isn’t feeding the desire for growth in people, they will lose motivation and look for new opportunities.  A good question to ask yourself and your staff at the end of the day is, “What did you learn today?”  Then ask yourself if you’ve given them the tools to grow.

Foster these needs in your people and you will soon see a workforce who is highly motivated and will begin to tell others about the great place they work.  Negative reinforcement and threats will turn them into skittish little puppy dogs.  Positive reinforcement will reap many great rewards.