The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton – Book Review


Best for:

The Carrot Principle is best for those interested in effective leadership, who also enjoy data and statistics.

Difficulty to digest:

The core concepts and conclusions are easy to digest, though some understanding of the scientific method is useful for parsing out the data. Especially in the back of the book.

Key Insights:

The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance by Adrian Gostick & Chester Elton has one overarching theme; recognition is key to being a good leader. Throughout the book, they make the case that recognition is what separates average workforces from exceptional ones. They also provide ways to meet recognition needs and lots of data backing up their claims.

The Carrot Principle has a few main themes it hits on. They start by recognizing that recognition alone isn’t sufficient to have a powerful workforce, but helps accelerate what they call the big four. These factors are goal setting, trust, communication, and accountability. With those basics in place, recognition is what helps employees feel connected and work harder.

Recognition is good for business

The authors cite increased productivity, lower turnover, higher margins, greater creativity, and greater satisfaction as just a few of the benefits of high-recognition leadership styles. They also argue that the benefits far outweigh any costs that may be incurred, minor rewards can have massive impacts on individuals. If you can customize the reward to the person, they’ll feel noticed and connected.

The book also discusses specifics on how to best recognize individuals. They knock down common arguments against constant recognition and even provide 125 examples of ways to recognize employees. They emphasize that to be effective, recognition must be regular, genuine, and non-conditional. There’s no such thing as too much recognition and when leaders do this across the team equally, everyone feels empowered.

Recognition is Universal

Gostick and Elton also go to great lengths to prove these aren’t just isolated effects. They show that their results can be replicated across countries, and the appendix is full of additional information and studies. Their conclusions are that recognition is universally wanted in the workplace and generally ranks high on employees desires.

In total, The Carrot Principle is a book that primarily focuses on one topic; recognition, done the right way, is key to a company’s growth and success. If you’re in a leadership position or want to be, this is definitely a book worth considering. If you’re early in the process, you may not start here, but it’s definitely something to add to your repertoire.

Other considerations:

The first consideration is that the Carrot Principle uses quite a bit of data. For some, this may be cumbersome and make getting to the conclusions take longer than you want. Of course, they’re doing this to prove their point is well founded, but if you’re the type to take conclusions at face value, recognize skimming may be appropriate.

Another consideration is that this book is highly focused on the topic of recognition. If you’re looking for a general leadership book, there’s not quite enough breadth of knowledge. This book can massively enhance your recognition skills, which will help in leadership, but it’s more tuned for someone who already has some experience.

Applicable Content:

  • How often do you recognize others in your life?
  • Do you feel recognized in your workplace?
  • How can you show someone you recognize their efforts, this week?

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