Simple financial incentives and other "carrot and stick" methods have been shown to be largely ineffective motivators, especially for employees on your team. And these incentives can be totally inappropriate if applied to stakeholders outside of the organization.
Instead, rewards should address our deep need for:
Autonomy: The desire to direct our own lives
Mastery: The urge to get better at our work and be successful
Purpose: The yearning to work in the service of something larger than ourselves
Rewards don't need to be huge, but they should be visible to the entire team. They can be as simple as acknowledging a job well done in a daily stand-up meeting. Or it can be more substantive, such as granting greater autonomy or responsibility.
As a leader, you must allow employee stakeholders the freedom to define their work within appropriate boundaries. Provide opportunities for them to develop new skills and link your team's work to the objectives of the organization or a larger social benefit, where possible.
So where can you start?
Rather than instructing the team member receiving the award on what to do and when to finish, offer a little bounded autonomy by asking how he or she can best achieve the objective of the task and how quickly it can be accomplished.
If the stakeholder is a senior manager, create a sense of purpose by linking your request for help to the manager's goals for the organization. You may be surprised at the positive reaction.
What do you think? Can autonomy, mastery and purpose be motivational rewards?