The Reward Takes Time

Less than 5 minutes drive from my house sits a strip mall–the kind of strip mall that is found in many American suburbs. It contains a grocery store, restaurants, fish market, cell phone store, and, well, you can guess the rest. 

At the front of this strip mall, a stand-alone Starbucks and a stand-alone Dunkin’ reside. (If you haven’t heard, Dunkin’ is dropping the Donuts from their branding.

These shops are a hub of activity every morning, with countless cars lining up for their caffeine fix. 

Based on my quick observations, the average wait time in each of their drive-thrus is 10+ minutes in the morning.

My research shows I might be underestimating. A Men’s Journal article said : 

According to data provider Technomic, about eight percent of Starbucks customers waited between 15 and 30 minutes for their order in the first quarter of this year; by contrast, practically no Starbucks customers were waiting that long at the same time in 2019.

I don’t want to discuss why the wait times are so long; I want to ask why people are willing to spend so much time waiting for their drink. 

The simple answer is THE REWARD. 

In the book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes: 

Countless studies have shown that a cue and a reward, on their own, aren’t enough for a new habit to last. Only when your brain starts expecting the reward—craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment—will it become automatic to lace up your jogging shoes each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.

The reward is getting their morning caffeine and being recognized as Starbucks or Dunkin’ loyalists. 

Understanding THE REWARD is critical in leadership development. 

Developing as a leader takes time. It takes a while to develop people skills, learn organizational dynamics, become a better communicator, grow emotional intelligence, foster teamwork, create compelling visions and missions, and manage conflict effectively.

It takes so long that we often need to remember THE REWARD because THE REWARD is not immediate. And we love immediate in our modern world. 

So, my encouragement to you is two-fold.

  1. Keep investing the time and energy in leadership development. It will pay dividends in the long run.

    When we were expecting our first child 20 years ago, I used the pregnancy period to get in the best shape of my life. I started eating better and exercising more.

    The results were not immediate, but they paid off 10 months later when I was dragging from a lack of sleep.


  2. As a leader, reward effort in addition to outcome.

    Reward your employees for spending time on leadership development. Give them time “on the clock” to study leadership. When you catch them watching videos to develop as a leader, applaud them.

    It may not pay off this week, but it will in the long run. So reward the effort. 


So Tuesday’s Takeaways are: Leadership development takes time, so REWARD the effort. And if you don’t think you or your team have time for it, remember the length of the Starbucks line.


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Chief Operating Officer for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

More Articles

People are the Purpose

I have thought about things that aggravate me, worry me, anger me, and that I wish I had done differently in the past. And it has not been good.

Read More »

The Greater Why

I have thought about things that aggravate me, worry me, anger me, and that I wish I had done differently in the past. And it has not been good.

Read More »