Are You Rewarding The Right Things?

When we reward people based on their behaviors, they begin to repeat those behaviors. Edward Thorndike researched this and coined the term The Law Of Effect.

The Law Of Effect states:

responses that produce a satisfying effect in a particular situation become more likely to occur again in that situation, and responses that produce a discomforting effect become less likely to occur again in that situation (Gray, 2011, p. 108–109).

Man with folded hands sitting in front of a MacBook Pro laptop

Photo by Wes Hicks

Or, in simpler terms, Behaviors immediately rewarded increase in frequency, behaviors immediately punished decrease in frequency (John Maxwell).

Maxwell shares the behaviors he would like to see repeated. These behaviors are:

  • Positive attitude
  • Loyalty
  • Personal growth
  • Leadership reproduction
  • Creativity

These are all great leadership behaviors. I agree with Maxwell that these need to be traits leaders are reinforcing on a regular basis.

By rewarding these positive behaviors, leaders will see their team members stepping up to new challenges, conquering old challenges, and bringing new leaders up with them.

But… are there other leadership behaviors that need to be rewarded? I believe so.

We need to make sure we’re rewarding the right behaviors. These additional behaviors include:


I’ve seen people progress far with dishonesty. Their dishonesty makes them look good but then they fall quickly once their dishonesty is found out. Not only that, but their dishonesty has also hurt the organization.

Reward your team when they are honest.

Communication –

Teams have to be able to communicate. There are times when team members may hold critical communication close to their chest. This lack of communication hurts the team because they lose valuable information.

Reward your team when they’re communicating openly and honestly.

Teaching –

John Maxwell mentioned personal growth in his list of behaviors to reward. I like to add to this behavior. Personal growth is great… but it’s not the end.

We need to reward people who are willing to grow and then teach what they’ve learned. Teaching will help them cement their new knowledge and help grow the people they work with.

Reward your team when they teach and share their knowledge.

Timeliness –

The workplace has changed. People are working remotely more than ever before.

Still, people are still gathering for meetings. Whether this is done through Zoom, Skype, Facebook Rooms, or in-person, meetings still happen.

The behavior of being on time is still important because of this. People arriving late, or not at all, can be damaging to the flow of the meeting.

Reward your team when they show up on time.

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