Most people think spontaneity means acting without planning, but that's not always true. It is possible to plan for spontaneity. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Talk to your employees and volunteers

    Ask people one-on-one about what motivates them, or have them share their comments in a group. Ask: “If we attain our goals, what would be rewarding to you (or to the group)?”

  • Recognition tools

    Have spontaneous things you can use to thank and acknowledge people: thank-you cards, tokens, pins, certificates, pass-around trophies, mementos, gag gifts, gift certificates, discount coupons, movie passes, or other on-the-spot awards.

  • Thank yous

    Use time at meetings to talk about group and individual successes, and about who made those successes happen. Leave positive voicemail messages for individuals whose work has stood out, and pass positive e-mails on to others. Ask your organization's leader to call an employee to thank him or her for doing a great job. These efforts look spontaneous but should be done strategically.

  • Celebrations

    Have the resources on-hand for spontaneous parties — confetti, balloons, etc. Consider hosting an ice cream social, a pancake breakfast, or a barbecue or potluck lunch on short notice to celebrate a milestone or group success. You can use spontaneity as a way to recognize your employees. Just remember:

    • Involve others whom you are trying to motivate. Ask what would be fun and rewarding to them, and try to make that a part of whatever you do.

    • Select in advance the recognition tools that you plan to use.

    • Develop a routine to perpetuate recognition. Making it part of your daily routine helps to ensure that it will continue.