From the moment we are born, we instinctively recognize and respond to emotions. Even as infants, we react to positive facial expressions and warm voices with innocent laughter. Similarly, tears flow at the sign of the negative opposite. This pattern, though concealed with adult behavioral-masks, continues throughout our lives. We are emotional creatures, and these emotions function as a significant driver in our decision-making and execution process. When we feel good, we do well. When we feel bad… well, you get the point.
As a leader, your most important function is people management. That does not necessarily mean being “nice” all the time. However, it does mean showing positive emotions towards positive behavior. Often in our childhood, we were rewarded when we performed a desired behavior. These rewards clearly did not start with monetary compensation at that point, as that concept did not mean much to us then. Instead, the positive behavior was acknowledged and rewarded with a smile and a few good words, which insured you repeated that particular behavior. This is the effect of positive feedback.
According to research by the Corporate Leadership Council, a group that conducts research through several high profile organizations, providing positive feedback to your employees is categorized as an A-Level Driver, affecting performance with a value higher than 30 percent. The CLC also identified that while 89 percent of employees believe positive feedback to be their biggest motivator, only 39 percent seem to get any feedback at all.
Rewarding desired behavior with positive feedback is important, but how can you put it to work?
For this motivational tool to be effective, managers can turn to the following process:
1. Look for the Opportunity!
As a leader, you should observe and recognize desired behaviors by your employees. These behaviors could be as simple as completing a task earlier than scheduled. This means that you should be visible to your employees-- engaging them, mentoring them, and ultimately, leading them towards these desired behaviors. Moreover, you should look for and recognize a change in behavior, from the bad to the good. For instance, an employee who starts coming in on time after being habitually late is a prime opportunity to reinforce this desired behavior.
2. Explain the positive effect of the behavior on the working environment.
If you want a certain behavior to continue, your employees must understand the value of this particular behavior on the job. One might say, something like: “By drawing our attention to the risks of this project and identifying the measures we should take to minimize this risk, you helped the company avoid a serious setback that would have affected the whole project!”
3. Provide Positive Feedback
Positive feedback should be simple, direct, and from the heart. After having explained the effect of the observed behavior, show your appreciation with a simple and honest “Thank you.” This should be done in a public setting, if possible. If not, make the effort to publicize this feedback, either through some correspondence that involves the coworkers in the department, or an article in a company publication. The importance is that this employee feels appreciated and publicly acknowledged for what he/she has done.
So go and connect with your people, look for the good in them, and thank them for it. You DO know what you will get in return.
Contributor: Feras Banna