Incentive programs – or more accurately – influence programs – can and should do a lot of things for you. From shaping opinion and impressions to moving behaviors and creating results, incentive/influence programs are a strategic way to achieve very tactical outcomes. No – not an oxymoron. Just the truth.

But there are things that incentive, reward, recognition and influence programs shouldn’t do. Some examples (not comprehensive nor collectively exhaustive) include:

  1. Be duplicitous – don’t promise something with no intention of delivering by creating ridiculous goal levels or contests you hope no one wins.
  2. Make your audience decide between earning an award and hurting another team member because the rules are zero-sum. I can’t win unless you lose. Bad idea.
  3. Be in opposition to your company mission and values. Those are supposed to be immutable. Use your mission and values to create a better program. If your program violates your mission and values maybe you should reevaluate your program goals. And your moral compass.
  4. Ignore an audience that has substantial impact on success of your stated goals. I know salespeople are the “front lines” and without sales you have nothing. But – in today’s world team selling is the norm and needs to be considered. Don’t let your incentive for your salespeople overshadow the work that allows them to sell. Find a way to include all the right audiences.
  5. Leave too much of the awarding to non-quantifiable results. Just because you like Tim and Sarah doesn’t mean they should automatically get the trip to Branson. Incentive programs should never be popularity contests.

Net-Net – if you even feel a little worried that the program you’ve designed is wrong or problematic – it is.

Trust me. That little twinge you feel is your conscience telling you to step away from the program and reevaluate.

Or call me. I’ll be your voice of reason.