43 | Steve Jobs’ Stick and Carrot Approach

Steve Jobs’ famous and highly criticized “stick and carrot” approach was created to incentivize and lead people. Believe it or not, this approach works according to personality style. When you’re leading people and trying to incentivize them you have to know what their motivators are. How do you find out what motivates them? By understanding the personality styles and values of your team.

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Stick and Carrot Approach by Personality Style

If you’ve got a High S or High C personality style, you’ll never motivate them by dangling a carrot in front of their nose. Their personality style doesn’t care about that incentive style. Instead they’d rather you tell them what an incredible job they’re doing, not in front of others, over extra money any day.

If you’ve got a High D or High I personality style, you’ll probably be able to lead them with a carrot and a stick. Especially High D’s. They’re all about competition, incentive and accomplishment. High I’s are also like that but love to know that you think they’re amazing and enjoy that praise in front of their peers.

If you’re going to dangle a carrot in front of someone, choose the right vegetable.

Stick and Carrot Approach by Values

There are seven essential values: economic, individualistic, political, regulatory, aesthetic, altruistic, and theoretical. If you’ve got someone that’s not a high economic, dangling a dollar in front of them isn’t going to make a big difference. If someone is a high altruistic, they’re motivated by doing something that’s helping others. If another person is highly theoretical, they want new information and constant change from learning. Learn more about the values and motivators and get the test in the store.

When you understand personality styles and values, you’ll certainly understand what to utilize and how to incentivize your team.


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Question: How has the stick and carrot approach worked for you?



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

9 thoughts on “43 | Steve Jobs’ Stick and Carrot Approach”

  1. Yes…my favorite is this.

    WHO: My assistant who had no sales experience at all but was very motivated by “stuff.”
    WHAT: She was asked to sell. If she signed up 20 insurance agents, she got an iPod.
    WHY: We were a small company and I was the only salesperson at the time. We needed more sales.

    All week long, I said things like “What are you going to put on your iPod?” and “Do you want black or white?”

    She had NO experience at this. In an average week, I signed up 30 agents. We were asking her to signup 20. That was unthinkable.

    And yet…she signed up 19 her first week. The following week 17 and then…24. She got her iPod.

    And we got 60 sales when 60 sales meant the world to us.

      1. She had the skills. But no one told her. It took the motivation to bring out the skills.

        Less than two years later, she scored in the top 1% on the SHRM exam as she transitioned into HR management. She became one of our most valuable executive team members and today heads up the business development unit.
        I am sure that there was more to her success than one week of us stretching her and believing in her. But I like to think it was an important time in her development.

  2. My biggest challenge is that I manage independent contractors who live all over the US. I’ve ben trying to be less of a manager and more of a leader and champion for them, but 90% of my role is reviewing their work for errors, so it feels like most of my time is spent finding things wrong. You can see how demotivating this is for them and for me. To go with the analogy, I often don’t feel like I’m dangling anything in front of them….more like I’m the guy in the cart with a whip asking them to work harder. It’s the nature of my position, but somehow I have to figure out a better way because 1) it’s not working, and 2) I want to be an encourager!

  3. Chris, I’ll agree that this only works with personality style. At my old company they used this incentive approach (bonuses based off performance) and, due to it being in the DC Metro “go go go” rat race type area, it created a lot of animosity within the company and the organization became very “cut-throat” and dishonest.

    It’s important to know your people and to know how to motivate them. This takes time. This is also the sign of a good leader. Some need a boot to the rear, some need a pat on the back (whether that be in public in private as mentioned in the podcast). I would say that learning to manage personalities over managing people is one of the biggest key elements to learn in leadership.

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