When I speak about rewards, I don’t necessarily mean money. Employees welcome both psychological or financial recognition as their reward for a job well done.

Rewards can and should be just about anything. A compliment. A thank you note. A smile. A gift certificate for a high performer and his or her spouse. An incentive trip. Even publicly mentioning the name of the employee when you are presenting during your executive review.

If your rewards are welcomed by your direct reports, yet you miss your goals, check to be sure those rewards are aligned and that you have been consistent with reinforcing that alignment. It may be that you are rewarding a unit within the overall task or project and not the outcome. If so, you’ll get plenty of the units you reward and still not achieve the overall outcomes you need.

Not only must your rewards be specific and on target to what delivers the results you need, but you must also be careful not to create confusion among the rewards. If you need one outcome but go around lavishing praise on everything but that, you are signalling that your reward and the goal it is associated to is insincere or of much less importance than something else.

So, when it comes to recognition programs, incentive programs, or any other big or small reward, be sure they are both aligned and that you are acting in ways consistent with those recognition programs or rewards.