Your strongest memories are tied to your strongest emotional experiences. How you will initially respond to events in the present is tied to those memories.
This is not just about your childhood. These memories are being formed today.
At work. In your business. By everyone on your team.
Back when I was going to school in rural Manitoba they still used "the strap". I got the strap 3 times from grade 1 until grade 4.
By today's standards, what I did to get the strap would seem trivial. Kids do those things all the time now. Back then, kids that finished their assignments quickly and then got bored needed to be controlled lest chaos ensued and anarchy rule.
I don't judge the teachers or principals. They did what was considered normal then. What was done to them.
The point is that all these years later I can vividly remember those incidents.
And wonder how avoiding the strap influenced the rest of my life at some level.
Events in the past that have a strong positive emotion are also remembered well.
This is because we are programmed by how our brain works to survive and thrive. That is to avoid danger and seek out rewards.
Negatives outweigh positives. (Remember the 10x rule?)
If we didn't survive then you couldn't get the reward anyways.
This kept us out of the mousetrap. At least it did for the ones who passed on their genes.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Your reward might not be rewarding to me at all.
A big awards gala complete with public recognition, acceptance speeches and a trip to a big professional convention might terrify me.
Then again, it may be highly motivating.
It depends on which emotions come to the surface.
Are they neutral? Big waste.
Are they strongly negative? Highly damaging.
Are they highly positive? Bingo! Everyone wins.
Know Your People
There is no easy path to creating a great business culture. There is no easy path to great leadership and management. There is no easy path to employee engagement and retention. All of these pieces must be aligned.
It takes work.
You need to know your people as individuals.
Know what motivates them. Know how they best take correction. Care about them as individuals.
Tie their personal goals and motivations to the organizational vision.
Rewards and recognition don't have to be expensive. They just have to strike the right chord. Maximize the impact for your limited resources.
Human emotions are inseparable from business. You can pretend otherwise.
Consciously choose to match the person's emotional response to the outcome you actually want to achieve.