Don’t Lose Sleep Over What You Can’t Influence

An economic slowdown, new and constantly-changing regulations and competition from home and abroad constitute the three biggest headaches keeping US business leaders awake at night.

Forbes contributor Kenneth Rapoza wryly observes how the top trio of concerns – drawn from management and insurance giant Aon’s Global Risk Management Survey of 1,415 respondents – are those which are uninsurable.

The survey also highlighted that the same three issues – in the same order – would be the biggest fear factors for CEOs three years down the line.

The remaining six of the ten top risks are: damage to brand and/or reputation, failure to attract or retain top talent, failure to innovate and/or meet customer demands, business interruption, commodity price risk, cash/flow liquidity risk and political risk/uncertainties.

In the knowledge that you as a business owner have no influence whatsoever on the first three, let’s look at what we can do about some of the other concerns which keep bosses tossing and turning throughout the night.

Concern number 5 focuses on failure to attract or retain the top talent. As an experienced business advisor and executive coach who has witnessed the downsides of not getting this right – and as someone who helps companies to be a magnet for top talent – let’s focus on what you can do to improve in this area.

Retaining and motivating teams on severely constrained budgets is admittedly a challenge – but one that can be overcome.

Share the wealth

80-90% of employees should get some reward each year. To reinforce certain behaviours, you need to constantly reinforce them.

Small bucks beat big ones

The average prize should be just $110 / £70. Smaller prizes can seem insignificant and larger ones don’t prompt greater motivation.

Weekly not quarterly

Give 5% of employees a weekly award. Anything less and they’ll forget about the program. Small awards all the time are a way to constantly touch people.

Research from Stanford University reinforces this approach through a study in which three groups were given puzzles to solve. The first group received $1 each immediately after completing the task. The second knew they would get $1 for solving each problem, but didn’t know when.

The third group, who only knew they would be randomly rewarded, completed the most puzzles. Researchers say: “It’s the element of surprise, not the size of the award, that really moves people on.”

For a peaceful night’s sleep – and for help in boosting morale and attracting and retaining the top talent to drive your business forwards, leave a comment below, e-mail, follow @richardwhatif on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn or post on

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