Nearly 40% Never Give Positive Reinforcement
For many, it’s easier to talk about what sucks than what’s great. There’s a negative voice in our heads.
Personally, you can’t speak well of yourself. Why?
- Humble leaders don’t brag. They talk about the strengths and successes of others.
- Considerate managers don’t demean others. They don’t want to make others feel inferior by outshining them.
- Wise leaders avoid the humblebrag*. It’s obvious, offensive, and ineffective.
A culture of beat down:
We beat down others because we beat down ourselves.
Negative feedback feels more substantial than positive affirmations. Most leaders feel more effective when giving criticism and less effective when giving positive feedback*.
In truth, many leaders don’t give any feedback at all. No feedback feels like beat down too.
A culture of affirmation:
Imagine a culture where affirmation exceeds correction by three times. What concerns you?
- Affirmations feel frivolous or fake, especially when people have weaknesses?
- People might feel they’ve arrived and stop giving their best?
- Your status might go down if you affirm others too much?
- Giving too many affirmations might make you look weak and needy?
You can’t energize people and beat them down at the same time.
Affirm team members’ humanity.
A leader told me that one of the simplest things she does receives the most positive feedback. She sends birthday and anniversary cards. She sends them in the mail with hand written addresses. All are hand signed. Many have personal notes.
A culture of affirmation treats people like human beings, not tools.
3 ways to move toward a culture of affirmation:
- Invite team members to tell you about their accomplishments in private. Give feedback that affirms accomplishments.
- Have team members brag about each other in meetings. “When I see you at your best I see you…”
- Honor effort not just results.
How might leaders create a culture of affirmation?
When might affirmation go too far?
*HBR Source: Nearly 40% don’t give positive affirmation.
Solid. Thanks, Dan. Lots of us are critical of ourselves, which CAN be a motivating force if it is not over the top, generating that motivation for continuous continuous improvement. It can roll negative and one needs to keep rolling over that mud. But it also deflects and reflects onto others, which is your key point and one well taken.
This is but one of the many positive impacts of collaboration and teamwork. That focus on shared goals and the group commitment to get something done more better faster can be that supportive aspect so needed in the workplace.
You know it is bad when 1 of 3 workers will give up their raise to see their boss fired (Workplace). And so many of us know that BOSS spelled backwards is simply self-explanatory. Until managers are truly accountable for workplace happiness and engagement and the improving statistics that go along with those improvements, I do not think that much will change.
Awareness is good. But like Dilbert said, “Change is good. You go first.”
Have FUN out there!
Thanks Dr. Scott. Bringing collaboration and teamwork into this conversation is powerful. We say we believe in teamwork. We want collaboration. But we can’t beat people down and expect teamwork and collaboration to be effective.
WHAT? That old approach of, “The firings will continue until teamwork and collaboration improve!” is NOT an effective approach anymore? I just saw 60 years of observations of leadership behavior just fly out the window. (It left with a big whoosh!!). (grin)
WHEN are we going to start doing things differently? How many words about improvement have been thrown against The Big Wall of Negativity over past decades?
People still think that “constructive criticism” is a good thing and not the oxymoron it really is.
Like the comment “you can’t energise people and beat them down at the same time” as well as “honor effort not just results”.
So true …
Thanks Rob. I appreciate the affirmation. 🙂
I often have to act as the conduit for results to customers. It’s the way the regulatory position works. So when I have data to share, I send it out or speak to the customer and say “Look what (person X) has done on your project. This is high-quality stuff!” and make sure Person X is on the CC list, or on the call with me.
We are sometimes asked to do something that turns out to be technically unfeasible, and then customers will ask me if I can have a look at trying it myself. 99% of the time my answer is the same: “Sorry, I don’t think it’s worth your while. I’ve reviewed what Person X did, and if they can’t make it work, neither can I”, and I have the other person on the email or call with me.
And one more thing – if the other person can make it work and I can’t – I make sure everyone knows it!
Thanks Mitch. Your comment is a great illustrate of practical affirmation. You make people feel respected and valued. Love where you took this.
This is a hard pattern to crack since for many/most it has not been modeled for us at home, at school, at church or at work. Even as we are using The Energy Bus as a resource for Leadership Training throughout campus we find lots of resistance. We recognize that we are taking baby steps in the right direction so that is what I try to concentrate my energy on — feeding/fueling the positive. I often use your blog as reinforcement and encouragement for our managers. Thanks
Thanks Aliceh. You are so right. What’s interesting is when we dig below the surface, do we really believe that acting in negative ways builds positive environments. Yes we have to deal with negative issues. Yes we can be affirming when we do this.
Excellent post! When “clients praise the workers” we share with them all so they know they are appreciated, not to mention a simple nice job last week at company XYZ encourages them to continue. If and when clients share concerns, they should be addressed immediately with affirmative actions by the leaders communicating to the workers, then back to the client, with results. Complacency develops without guidance, clients expect affirmative action taking place to ensure all parties involved get the message.
Give credit when credit is due to each or all members of the project, perhaps if someone is not on board share a brief simple conversation such as I know you can do better! We believe in you, etc.
The other side of the coin is they are hired to perform, based on knowledge and capabilities, some people just want to work, don’t really care about accolades, just show them in their paycheck.
Thanks Tim. Your inclusion of customer feedback really expands the scope of this article. I love where this takes us.
The other thing that makes light bulbs go off is the idea that we should understand how people best receive affirmation. Some enjoy public. Some enjoy private. Some need lots. Others need a little.
Positive reinforcement only feels fake when it is. The recipient has to understand the why around the praise for the behavior or results. Often the “public” praise to peers and others helps the recipient do “more of that”. Not unlike the virtuous cycle – people do more of what gets rewarded.
Thanks Garret. Your focus on authenticity is well placed. I might add that when we start doing things we haven’t been doing…like affirming…we may feel a little fake until we’ve practiced it. (Even though we sincerely want to do it.)
As an old pirate captain once said, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Great post. Thanks!
lol. That’s funny.
Hi Dan, I feel you could send this once a month. We all need regular reminders of this.
These are the nice and fruitful ideas you shared.
Important article I shared,
The lack of engagement in organizations has reached an epidemic level. Some reports say as high as 60% of our employees are not engaged, and doing just enough to not be fired. Ironically some managers believe its a money problem. However the root of the problem is the basic need to feel valued, noticed if you will, and appreciated. All of those often can be achieved with no costs other than simple human kindness.