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a blog by Chris Barrow

The Imbalance of Gratitude

The imbalance of gratitude is what happens when you appreciate or help someone and they feel indebted to you for your kindness.

The desire of another to return a favour can create a profound effect in your life.

I'm often asked about incentivisation:

  1. Chris, should we pay bonuses to the whole team and/or to individual team members?

  2. Chris, should we offer incentives to patients if they refer their family, friends and colleagues to us?

  3. Chris, should we offer incentives to GDPs if they refer their patients to us?

Team Bonuses

My response in the first case (team) is to ask "why?" Are you expecting team members to work smarter or harder because of the prospect of a bonus? If so, my belief is that's an unreasonable expectation.

First, if they aren't already working at their smartest or hardest - then why not - and do you genuinely think a bit of money is going to make any difference?

Second, if they are already working at their smartest and their hardest, then dangling a small carrot and shouting "MORE!" could be seen as insulting.

Third, the payment of a bonus as a pure "thank you" for their smart and hard work, will create an imbalance of gratitude that you may be able to subconsciously call on a some future date, when the going gets tough.

I pay Team CB a bonus every month - it's a straight percentage of sales, divided equally - simples. It is not intended as an incentive - because I already know that they are doing their smartest, hardest work for me. It is intended to create an imbalance of gratitude - a reservoir of goodwill that I may have to call on occasionally, when we all have to go an extra mile.

Patient and GDP incentives

We begin by acknowledging that the GDC will frown on any incentive to drive new business - rightly so given that dentistry is classed as a profession.

However, I still get the questions about M&S gift vouchers, free toothbrushes, complimentary hygiene visits (and for GDPs, subsidised learning or entertainment).

Again, I see the incentive as cheapening your offer, not enhancing it.

"If you recommend a family member to join the practice, we will give you a gift voucher."

It runs the risk of sounding tacky and/or desperate doesn't it?

"If you send your patients to us, we will take you to the rugby international."

Well you are just asking for trouble, especially in a world of whistleblowers.

However, consider the unsolicited "thank you".

The doorbell rings, the delivery driver hands you a package, you open it and read the card:

"Thank you so much for the recent patient recommendation and we hope you enjoy this complimentary box of chocs/bottle of wine/bunch of flowers/bar of soap etc etc."

The email arrives and reads:

"Thank you so much for the recent patient referrals - I have a couple of tickets for the rugby international and would love for you to join me."

It's a subtle but important difference.

Incentives create a sense of crude capitalism, whereas unsolicited appreciation creates an imbalance of gratitude and a reservoir of goodwill.

Here at Extreme Business, we love sending our clients nice little surprises when they say or do nice things.

As a leader, you have to constantly think about how to keep that reservoir full - and as a final observation, you don't just fill that reservoir with money, gifts and days out - you also fill it with empathy, genuine appreciation and fun.

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Thank you Chris, great article, gives a lot of clarity x

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