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How to motivate students to perform better in school

MotivationEdward Kiledjian2 Comments

I am always looking for new tricks to help motivate kids to perform better in school and I recently read an interesting report from some researchers from the University of Chicago. They performed tests on children in under-performing schools to determine if money or a trophy could motivate a student to better grades.

The researchers wanted to know if the money would motivate the students, how much money it would take to motivate them and how quickly the money would have to be paid out for it to be a motivator. They confirmed that hyperbolic discounting (aka delayed gratification) was in play. This means we put more importance on immediate gratification and overly discount near future gratification.

Keeping hyperbolic discounting in mind and knowing that the real payoff for education is very far out in the future, we understand why the students don’t see that as a motivating factor. It is too far in the future to carry any weight. By paying a student for good grades, you are providing some (almost) immediate gratification which is a strong motivator.

Without going into the nitti gritty of the tests, here are their main conclusions: 

  • Money is a motivator. The researchers also discovered that the amount of money has an impact on the amount of motivation. This means a student will be more motivated for $80 than $40.
  • They discovered that losing a reward was more powerful than gaining it. This means that instead of giving them $20 for an A grade, you give them $20 and say they will have to give it back if they don’t get an A (this is called loss aversion).
  • Non monetary rewards like trophies worked better for young children.
  • They confirmed that delayed gratification didn’t work. Telling a student you will give them $20 in 3 weeks if they get an A on an exam.

I really liked this research because it is immediately actionable with your kids. The next time you want to motivate your young one to perform better, remember that cash is king.

To to handle interruptions at work

Economy, Management, Motivation, Organization, Strategy, Team building, Time ManagementEdward Kiledjian2 Comments

With the economic realities we have been living with since 2008, companies are forcing employees to do more with less. Not only are companies asking employees to be more creative and use less resources, they are also asking less employees to do more work.

An interruption is anything that distracts you from the primary task at hand. Common workplace distractions are emails, phone calls, drop-in meetings, etc

This means that most people you talk to, working in a corporate environment, have too much to do and not enough time. This means a small number of daily interruptions can have a huge impact on your productivity.

I wrote an article about MAC OS Lion January 2011 and one of the note in it said :

The Research The truth is that when we attempt to multi-task, we become much less effective. Modern cognitive research clearly demonstrates that when people multi-task, they perform less work and miss information. Researchers discovered that re-orienting yourself to the task at hand, after a distraction, takes 10-15 minutes. Quantifiably, performance for multi-taskers can drop as much as 40% along with a marked degradation of memory and creativity.

The reality is that you cannot completely get rid of distractions. They are a natural part of your work life, the key is to managing them efficiently.

You cannot improve that which you cannot measure

Having managed large operational groups for some multinationals, there is a mantra I repeat to most of my managers. You cannot improve that which you cannot measure. Before you start panicking about how many interruptions you have to deal with on a daily basis, make an objective inventory. Using a simple sheet of paper and a pencil, write down at least the following information (each time you are interrupted):

  • Date / Time
  • Duration of interruption
  • Who interrupted you
  • Why they interrupted you (the subject)
  • Was the interruption worthwhile?

I recommend you log interruptions for at least 2-3 weeks before you conduct your first review. At the end of your first logging period, it's time to make the data sing. First determine which interruptions were worthwhile and valid. Are they coming from a particular person or group? Do they concern a particular topic? Determine if you can stop these interruptions by making time for these topics or people as planned events in your calendar. You can then inform people to keep these issues until the planned meetings.

You will most likely have interruptions that were not worthwhile and you have to address these. Talk to the people in question and explain why you believe they were not valid and how they should address these in the future. Coaching is the key here. It is useful to explain how these interruptions impact your productivity.

Voicemail is your friend

Most people I talk to at work don’t know how to configure their phone to send calls straight to voicemail. Now is a great time to find out. I’ll wait here while you go and ask the question to a colleague or support person.

If you are working on a tight deadline or simply need some uninterrupted time, send calls straight to voicemail. I recommend you change your voicemail greeting every morning so callers know you are in. Your voicemail message should mention that you are busy and will be checking your messages sporadically during the day.

Do not disturb sign

 Whether you work in an office or cubicle, people may drop by unexpectedly and demand an audience. Most of the time, you should you the log method but there may be times when your work is too important and you just can’t afford the interruption. For these times, I recommend you create a notice printed sign that says you are working on something important and would appreciate not being disturbed.

Hand this sign just before people come into view so they do not break your concentration. Explain to your team that you expect them to comply with the sign when they see it because it is only up when absolutely necessary. People generally understand and will comply.

Reserve some available time

  1. If you are a manager or team lead then a good habit is to reserve some “general availability time” in your calendar. There is no magic rule of how much time or how often. You should reserve as much time as needed but no more. Share these windows of opportunity with your various stakeholders and ask them to leverage these when they need your attention.
  2. There are people that you interact with on a regular basis. These are people for whom you should have dedicated reserved time in your calendar.


Hopefully you found some good ideas to help you be productive. Feel free to send me comments, questions or ideas.

Research shows that Nice Guys DO Finish Last

Behavior, Management, Money, Motivation, Organization, Persuasion, Team buildingEdward KiledjianComment

If you have read any self-help books, you have undoubtedly read the adage “Nice guys finish last”. Now research from Notre Dame and Cornell Universities show how being too agreeable negatively impacts your earnings. 

More recent research from Stanford, Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon) continued on the same path showing that people who are overly caring, for overs, generally tend to make bad leaders. In particular, being overly nice generally means that you will likely fail in 2 important leadership domains: prestige and dominance. Prestige comes from sharing within their group while withholding gave the person dominance. 

The researchers said:

We predicted that contribution behavior would have opposite effects on two forms of status – prestige and dominance – depending on its consequences for the self, in-group and out-group members. When  the only way to benefit in-group members was by harming out-group members (Study 1),  contributions increased prestige and decreased dominance compared to free-riding. Adding the  option to benefit in-group members without harming out-group members (Study 2) decreased the  prestige and increased the perceived dominance of those who chose to benefit in-group members via intergroup competition. Finally, sharing resources with both in-group and out-group members decreased perceptions of both prestige and dominance compared to sharing them with  in-group members only (Study 3). Prestige and dominance differentially mediated the effects of contribution behavior on leader election, exclusion from the group, and choices of a group  representative for an intergroup competition.

Their research showed that in situations of group competition, individuals preferred having a dominant leader over a prestigious one (since the prestigious individuals were perceived as more submissive). So nice guys (the ones that share) are seem as prestigious and thus nor thought worthy of leadership during trying competitive times.

You can therefore assume that when things are going great and no major competition or risk is felt, people then prefer a prestigious boss.

How human needs influence motivation

Motivation, Organization, Persuasion, RapportEdward KiledjianComment

Human needs psychology teaches us that all human motivation can be explained by the need to meet one or more of these primary needs: 

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • Significance
  • Connection and love
  • Growth
  • Contribution 

Anytime you are in an interpersonal relationship whether to close a sale or coach an employee, it is important to understand which of the needs (one or many) are motivating the other person. Each need is met differently so take the time to think about it.

Simple concept but very powerful.