Category: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation Increase Employee Productivity

How To Thrive Now That Work-Life Balance Is Dead

By John Schaefer, January 20, 2015 10:00 am

I just read this new article by Louis Efron ( in Forbes and wanted to share it with you all. It really hits right to the core of what our lives are all about and whether we think about it or not, it is a big part of how happy and fulfilled we will be.

The constant corporate buzz and push for work-life balance is well intentioned, but the concept no longer exists. In the olden days – before smart phones, email, text and voicemail – it was possible to draw a line between work and personal time. You could leave an office at 5PM on Friday and not physically or mentally return to work until Monday at 8AM.
I work a lot because I love what I do. But because I love what I do, I don’t consider it work. This is both good and bad. It is good because I am living my purpose in life. It is bad because I sometimes don’t know when to shift focus elsewhere.
In today’s world, your conversation needs to focus simply on life balance. That is, how you balance and integrate everything you need and want to do each day, week, month and year. This includes making a living, time with your family, friends plus time for you and time for anything else you want to accomplish. Even the traditional concept of retirement is different. There is no escaping our connected world.
The whole idea of balance in life can appear elusive or even unimportant. When it comes to equilibrium, a number of studies discovered poor physical balance is significantly linked to an increased risk of sports injuries. Not surprisingly, the same applies to your personal life balance and health risk. Study after study confirms poor life balance is directly related to both physical and mental sickness and unhappiness.

Reminders To Recalibrate Life Balance
A recent New York Daily News interview with seventy-two-year-old X-Men actor Patrick Stewart drove the importance of life balance home for me yet again. Like so many people in today’s busy world, Stewart, revealed during his third marriage that he regretted focusing on his career at the expense of his family. This is not uncommon. Many people feel the same way late in life. I have worked with countless executives who lament on similar regrets approaching retirement.
Of course there are days when I let my career pursuit steal more focus than it should from my family and other important and enjoyable activities in my life. Stories like Stewart’s remind me what I need to do next. You won’t have to look hard to find other examples which will relate to your situation in life.
Signs Your Life Balance Is Off
When your life lacks balance, it is painfully obvious from the outside looking in. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees when in a rut.
Luckily, self-diagnosing your life balance is easy. Just pause to take inventory of what is going right and wrong in your life.
In this short pause, identify if you are experiencing any of the following challenges:
• Frequently tired or sick
• Difficulty sleeping or waking
• Hearing frequent complaints or jokes about the attention family and friends receive from you
• Feeling guilty about time allocation
• Regularly distracted from your current task
• Making simple mistakes
• Generally unhappy with your life
Many of the circumstances on this list can also result from depression. However, the question still remains as to the root of the problem. Depression can be and frequently is brought on by poor life balance.
Six Questions About Life Balance
Access to effective tools is helpful in all human endeavors, including achieving life balance. When my life is out-of-sync with the balance, success and happiness I desire I ask myself the below six questions to recalibrate. If I can’t answer, “yes” to all six, I investigate why. Then I work towards a solution to solve that issue.
1. Does my life balance contribute to the career and personal success I desire?
2. Does my life balance give me more energy in my day?
3. Do I sleep well and wake up refreshed?
4. Do important people in my life feel they get the attention they deserve from me?
5. Am I able to fully focus on a task at hand?
6. Does my life balance make me happy?
How many of the six questions did you answer yes to?
At the end of the day, life balance is about a commitment to more success and happiness. As the self-help guru Tony Robbins says, “Where focus goes, energy flows.” Commit to your six yeses now. Start realizing your true potential in life. You will be amazed at the positive life transformation which will follow.
For more information on Life Balance and how it impacts Recognition, Employee Engagement and Performance Management visit

The Fundamentals of Employee Recognition – It Comes Down to Balance and Believability

By John Schaefer, December 5, 2013 11:09 pm

Dr. Bob Nelson has been a powerful proponent of employee recognition for decades.  His best-selling book 1001 Ways to Reward Employees has now been punched up to 1501 Ways and I’m sure there are more to follow.  Check out his newest video on the fundamentals of recognition; I think you’ll like what he as to say - .

Surprisingly, even with experts like Dr. Bob, with years of experience starting with his work under Dr. Ken Blanchard (The One Minute Manager), implementing effective recognition programs continues to baffle corporate executives.  Perhaps I can help.

Notice that the title of Dr. Bob’s book uses the word “Rewards”, not “Awards”.  What’s the difference, you ask?  Perhaps and understanding of that difference will shine a light on why effective recognition continues to be such an elusive goal.

To understand the difference between Awards and Rewards, you need to understand a little bit of Brain Biology.  Anyone whose read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus will see where I’m going here.  The right side of the brain processes things emotionally.  It’s where Love, Joy, Fulfillment, Creativity, and perceptions of Personal Value reside.  When you emotionally engage an employee, your words (or better stated, the employee’s perception of your words) will be processed by the Right Brain. If done in an honest, genuine and trusting way, the message is, “… they love me and care about me … I’m a valuable part of the team … this organization appreciates me as a human being.”

The Left Brain is where logic and calculation live.  Anything that is monetary, statistical, competitive or in any way based on logic, not emotion, will be processed by the left side of the brain.  This is not a choice, it’s involuntary, so you have to realize that the automatic decision by the brain to function from the left or right is based on the PERCEPTION of the message, not necessarily by the INTENT of the messenger.

Case in point – A symbolic memento, such as a certificate, plaque, engraved pen, clock or crystal piece has the perception of a trophy (we call it trophy-value) and if appreciated by the recipient, will have long term, reoccurring value.  When presented by a trusted leader or manager for a reason that makes sense and in a way that is emotionally meaningful to the employee, this Award will impact the Right Brain and will be seen as a message of true appreciation and thanks.

However, if you take the exact same value in dollars and present it to the employee in cash or as a gift card, it becomes a compensation event and will be automatically processed by the logical Left Brain. Math will instantly by done, fairness will be calculated and in milliseconds your recipient will decide if the process is seen as an award or as an attempt to manipulate their behavior and “buy them off”.  Same amount of money, same manager, same reason for the presentation – VERY different outcome, and VERY different long term value from the investment.

Let’s use this scenario to define Awards versus Rewards –

An Award is presented as a means of thanking someone at a specific milestone in time.  I could be for working for the company for 5, 10 or 15 years, for being seen as deserving of praise for positive attitude with the President’s Award, or for exhibiting the work ethic and values that makes them a subjective choice for Employee of the Month.  A properly presented award is based on exhibiting certain values, attitudes, spirit, teamwork or other emotionally-based actions that an employee chooses to share, because they want to be helpful and part of a winning team in the workplace.  Awards can be totally objective, like a Length of Service Award based on time worked with the company, or can have some subjectivity, such as the President’s Award where the boss picks a winner(s) based on his team’s perception of an attitude and work ethic that is exemplary.  Awards honor points in time and are based on emotionally charged values.  They have nothing to do with specific, logical measurements of behavior.

Rewards are all about measurement and performance against a predefined matrix of behavior.  Meeting a sales goal, achieving perfect attendance, reducing the number of lost time accidents, or any measurable behavior that can be tracked, can be rewarded.  Performance Management programs use Incentive Rewards to promote behaviors that either reduce costs or increase revenues.  The value of the reward, when done properly, will be a reasonable percentage of the savings or profit that behavior generated.  It will makes sense and drive the desire to repeat that behavior, because it is logical, fair and allows the employee to share in company growth.

Not all behaviors are as easy to measure.  Reduction is OSHA recordables, for instance is very easy to measure, compare with past results. You can easily discern value, so setting up a Safety program is straight forward and you can easily prove ROI.  Measuring service and human interaction, while considered a rewardable behavior, may be a bit trickier, so rewards could be a Team Reward for everyone in the store when they achieve above a certain Mystery Shopper rating, or for an entire wing of a hospital with they hit a certain HCAHPS or Patient Satisfaction score.  This spreads the rewards and engages more employees in the results.

Make sense so far? Well, here’s the murky problem; Awards and Rewards, while very different, are often confused for each other.  While I don’t know every one of the 1501 Ways in Dr. Bob’s book, I’m confident that some would be considered rewards and some might be better defined as awards.

Bottom line is this –

Awards impact the Right Brain and lead the recipient to feel Loved, Valued, Appreciated and Emotionally Engaged in their workplace.

Rewards impact the Left Brain and are seen as payment for completion of a predefined, measurable behavior.  Rewards make employees feel, Respected, Involved, Important and Fulfilled.

The secret to all of this is actually pretty simple.  It comes down to three things:

1.  Use them in the right order.  Award first to impact the Right Brain and emotionally engage your people.

2. Reward second, because people who are emotional engaged and trust your motives will see the ability to share in the profits or savings they generate through measurable incentives as the opportunity to share in the growth of the company.  Unengaged, untrusting employees will see the very same incentives a manipulation to entice them to improve behaviors so YOU win, more than they do. Same dollars, very different results.

3.  Make it Real!  Managers have to be training to understand both the How and the Why of recognition, so they come across as believable, genuine, enthusiastic and consistent.  It all boils down to one simple question … do your employees believe you or not? Trained managers will be more believable, so they become open to a comprehensive approach that helps them award, reward and share in the benefits.

To learn more about Awards, Rewards and the best ways to use them to optimize our investments in your people visit or email me personally at

How Developing Intrapreneural Employees Will Improve Your Yearend Results

By John Schaefer, November 21, 2013 12:32 pm

Larry Myler is at it again … his recent Forbes article on the benefits of promoting Intrapreneurs and their innovations to impact the bottom line is right on track. Check it out at:

But the 100,000 questions is -how do you get employees to the point where they want to share that much creativity, be that engaged and that excited about helping your organization? That’s the question that everyone in the HR community is asking and is the key to optimizing employee value in any type of company.

I suggest you first consider whether your organization uses a Theory X or Theory Y management philosophy. Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory in his 1960 book ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’. His X-Y Theory remains central to organizational development, and to improving organizational culture.

McGregor’s X-Y theory is a simple reminder of the natural rules for managing people, which under the pressure of day-to-day business are all too easily forgotten. He suggests that there are two fundamental approaches to managing people. Many managers tend towards theory x, and generally get poor results. Enlightened managers use theory y, which produces better performance and results, and allows people to grow and develop.

theory x (‘authoritarian management’ style)

  • The average person dislikes work and will avoid it he/she can.
  • Therefore most people must be forced with the threat of punishment to work towards organizational objectives.
  • The average person prefers to be directed; to avoid responsibility; is relatively unambitious, and wants security above all else.

theory y (‘participative management’ style)

  • Effort in work is as natural as work and play.
  • People will apply self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of organizational objectives, without external control or the threat of punishment.
  • Commitment to objectives is a function of rewards associated with their achievement.
  • People usually accept and often seek responsibility.
  • The capacity to use a high degree of imagination, ingenuity and creativity in solving organizational problems is widely, not narrowly, distributed in the population.
  • In industry the intellectual potential of the average person is only partly utilized.

In our work at Schaefer Recognition Group we talk about showing employees Love and Respect, the ingredients of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need Level Four – Self Esteem(where most of your employees reside).  The importance of engaging people emotionally (love and respect) before you ask them to offer you their 110% effort is supported by a Theory Y management style and the understanding of the power of Discretionary Effort.

Theory Y leaders do not feel  the need to micro manage (shows a lack of respect), other than in cases where they are working on specific performance issues with an individual employee or team; and that is always short lived.  Your Intrapreneurs will surface and thrive in a Theory Y, high trust and unintimidating work environment where transparency, vulnerability, honesty and independence are fostered.

Conversely, an old-school, autocratic Theory X work environment will normally lead to less creativity, lower productivity, more protectionist attitudes and thus a lack of cooperation. You lose spontaneity and get none of the “two heads are better than one” benefits from your team.

Today’s leaders, using a  Theory Y management style, will see more Intrapreneurs emerge and will be able to benefit from the secret sauce of the 100 Greatest Companies to work for – lots of Discretionary Effort among a workforce that is excited, empowered and energized to happy to bring the best they have to the workplace.  They’re freely willingt to do it and your get it essentially for free!

For more information on John Schaefer, Schaefer Recognition Group and to learn about how our Umbrella Recognition Solution can work for you and your employees, visit or email me at

Here’s and Interesting Take on Employee Engagement That May Surprise You.

By John Schaefer, October 30, 2013 8:50 pm

I met Louis Efron, and he seemed like a pretty low-key guy to me.  After reading his latest Forbes article, however –, I’m beginning to see his inner tough-love guy!

Most of the time, when you read about employee engagement, it’s all about what the company can do, how management should change, the training you must provide to your supervisors, new tools, techniques, software and communication skills.  But what responsibility does the employee themselves have?  Or better stated … if you are a disengaged employee, what options do you have and what can you personally do about it?  Should you just wait for your leadership to hire Louis Efron, Larry Myler, Bob Kelleher or some other engagement guru to make it all better or is some of the solution up to you?

Louis shares how he took a personal flyer to follow his dream after a 20+ year career in corporate America.  Now I’m not sure Louis was Actively Disengaged, but he did get to the point where he made a tough decision to venture out of his comfort zone and follow a personal dream.  “…yea, that’s okay for some people, but I don’t have the guts to be an entrepreneur or run a charity or start a church or take the big pay cut to go work as a fry cook in a local diner”, you may be thinking.  You just might reconsider when you read the stories of people who did, do some Goggling and see what you’re missing!

We have some friends who did just that.  She was a school teacher and he worked as a mid-level manager in a high tech firm here in Phoenix.  After they had their second child, this couple made the crazy decision to move to Oregon and buy a farm.  Seriously; a real “…if you build it, they will come” farm, with crops and tractors and planting and harvesting and all of the stuff that most of us could only imagine.  Well, it wasn’t easy, but after a couple of years, they were not only making it financially (not getting rich, but not starving) and raising their kids in a small community with great family values, low overhead, low crime rate and real salt-of-the-earth neighbors and friends.

Sure, your employer has a fiduciary responsibility to the owners of the company to make it possible for you as an employee to be as happy, efficient, productive and profitable as possible, but the rest is up to you.  If you’re not the “dream follower” type, then your other options is to become part of the solution. Volunteer to help spearhead Peer Review Groups, lead Productivity Circle, offer suggestions, be a breath of fresh air to those around you, or simply stay positive and engaged.  It’s your choice and you can do more to help your company succeed than you probably think.  Just don’t be a downer!

But, if you’ve got the cojones to venture out after the life and career your always wanted, go for it!  You might fall on your face, but you also might the joy, rewards and satisfaction that is reserved for those who set their own course.  If you do the work, take the risks and get engaged in your own venture, you just might be one of the new success stories that Louis Efron is talking about.  My advice … go for it!!

Do You Worry That Your Best Employees Don’t Feel Recognized?

By John Schaefer, September 8, 2013 9:08 pm

These are the folks that could be looking around when the economy turns!

If this is a concern for you, check out this article I found in Forbes by Louis Efron –

His content and style quickly got my attention, as we seem to feel the same about a lot of recognition issues.  Consistent with all three of Louis’s reasons is the need for management to be believable.  Employees must know that you are honest, genuine and dependable in any recognition application, or it quickly becomes seem as subtle manipulation.

This happens when the recognition is seen as relevant, timely and personal.  While I understand that you can’t single out every employee with recognition fully customized for them, you can be cognizant of employee types, ages, communication styles, etc. and choose a recognition vehicle that is comfortable for that person.

Group and team recognition is also a great way to increase visibility.  It’s a preference of younger employees to see everybody win (at least something), so having a base recognition award for the whole team, then single out top achievers in the group, is a great way to get more bang for the buck and engage a broader range of your people.

Feel free to reach out to Louis directly with your thoughts or questions at –

For more information on how to engage your people effectively and to learn about our Umbrella Recognition Solution, visit .

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