Staff+ engineers often talk about the struggle of influencing without authority. One less talked about method of influencing is understanding and aligning incentives.

All of us are motivated by different things, but there is a common set that tends to apply to most people. By understanding which of these are coming into play in a situation and finding ways to align the project, behaviour, or change that you want to see with the incentives people already have, you can find convincing them significantly easier.

In this talk, I will go through some of the common incentives and motivators as well as real examples that I’ve encountered. I will talk through some cases where the incentive structure backfired, cases where we consciously put in place incentives, and cases where we just found better ways to compromise to meet everyone’s goals. Finally, I will talk about my strategies for nudging these incentives to work to my advantage. A lot can be accomplished through a little careful carrot placement.