Text posted Tuesday, June 26, 2012
“I was managing this very young team of programmers,” a senior manager in one of our nation’s intelligence agencies started to tell me. ”For the first few months, our weekly team meetings were great, but after every meeting, the programmers would come up to me one by one asking for feedback on their individual work. I kept trying to address this in the team meetings by asking each of them for status reports in our meetings. But one by one, they would come see me after the meeting to ask for individual feedback. Finally, in one of the team meetings, I asked the group about it point-blank. They all said, ‘We all want to know how we are doing, individually.’ So I said to them joking, ‘Do you want me to give out gold stars when you do a good job?’ And they all nodded affirmatively. They were very cheerful about it, but I was having a hard time with it. But I started giving out gold stars to them, individually, in the team meetings, and they loved it. They started asking all the time, ‘Do I get a gold star for that?’”
Yes, they want to earn gold stars. Just remember that if you are going to give out gold stars or points of any kind, you have to make it very clear every step of the way exactly how those points can be earned – or lost.