+3 – 3 = 0 is not motivating

In math, it is perfectly logical that +3 – 3 = 0. However, when it comes to human behavior and motivation, +3 – 3 is not 0. Good behaviors should not cancel out bad behaviors. Nevertheless, this is how we treat people most of the time. 


Parents want their kids to do well at school because they believe that the academic success will ensure their success in life, thus leading to a better life. When their kids do well at school, they are forgiving of other behaviors. They can stay up late, play video games longer, or get more allowance. Even at school, teachers are tolerant of unacceptable behaviors if they are from a good student.  


This attitude sends a wrong message. As long as you do one thing right, the rest does not matter. It should matter. In the long run, it’s other behaviors that derail the student. 


In organizations, it is the same. When somebody performs well and deliver results, bosses are tolerant of their other deficiencies such as respect for other team members, unacceptable interpersonal interactions and more. In the long run, it’s these other behaviors that break the team, demotivate team members and bring down the team’s performance.  


Remember to separate each expectation.  Understand that +3 is +3 as a stand alone. Reward it for its good performance. Conversely -3 is -3 whether there is +3 or not. This is how we motivate people and develop them. Unbundle behaviors and rewards and focus on one behavior at a time.