Reward The Effort, Not The Outcome

When my son came home with straight A’s, I congratulated him on the success. That was a mistake, because what gets rewarded get’s focused on. While at first blush, getting straight A’s seems like the exact thing I should praise, it’s not. The objective is that he maintains the effort and emotional muscle required to get straight A’s.

By praising my son on his grades, I set an expectation of straight A’s and not hard effort. So, if the next go around he doesn’t great straight A’s, it becomes a simple excuse of “bad teachers” or “no one else got straight A’s.” If I had praised his hard work, then that would become his focus. And with it, external circumstances, would become less relevant.

In his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink explains when it comes to your employees, don’t praise the outcomes, praise the effort it took them to get there. Specific feedback (“You got all the negotiation points properly documented in the contract”) and praise about the effort (“I appreciate all the time and attention to detail you put into the contract”), will be far more motivationally effective than outcome praise (“Great job getting the straight A’s… er… uh… I mean, the deal”).


1 thought on “Reward The Effort, Not The Outcome”

  1. I see that problem in myself too. I, myself, am a 10th grader, and sometimes, when my parents praise me on my outcome, I become focused on the end result instead of how to achieve it. Sometimes, it makes you resort to ways that you regret at the end. My advice, as a kid, would be to decrease the amount of praising you give and increase your constructive criticism. My parents don’t praise me often, so it motivates me to dream big and achieve more than i think i can. Right now, i am interning for a small business, and they’re the reason i even thought about this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More of mike…

Have Mike Speak at your event

Read All of Mike’s amazing Books

Listen to Mike’s Podcast Right now

Join Profit First Professionals

…& Mike’s Books

Profit First


The Pumpkin Plan

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur