Monday, February 28, 2011

The Power of Positive Feedback

All too often, managers consider monetary or material rewards the only means of giving positive feedback. A wildland fire leader has a duty to develop their subordinates for the future. Leaders are encouraged to "use positive feedback to modify duties, tasks and assignments when appropriate." The following example demonstrates this principle:

He Made Him Captain*
by Ron White

One of my best friends coached a group of 13-year-old boys in soccer a while back. He saw some leadership potential in one of the boys, but he also saw some disturbing qualities. My friend approached the boy and told him that he thought he could be captain of the team but he wanted to see changes in some of his behaviors. Almost overnight, the boy stopped his whining and complaining. He became responsible and an effective leader. Eventually, he became the captain of the soccer team and parents who have known this kid for years asked my friend what he did to transform him.

My friend didn’t do anything other than tell someone that he believed in him and thought he could do better. When was the last time you told someone that you believed in them? You can criticize until the cows come home. However, if you want to see lasting change, find the positives in a person and reinforce those. When you do, those qualities will grow and overshadow the less desirable qualities. For an overnight transformation, find positives and make them captain!

Secrets of Positive Feedback

Douglas Conant provides insight into positive feedback in his HBR blog post "Secrets of Positive Feedback." He lists three rules for building appreciation:
  1. Make a personal connection early on. Establish trust.
  2. Look for opportunities to celebrate. Can your organization for those who make a difference.
  3. Get out your pen. Take the time send handwritten notes.
*Reproduced with permission from the Ron White Newsletter. To subscribe to Ron White's Newsletter, go to Copyright 2011. All rights reserved worldwide.


Andrew said...

Praise has always been a great answer for leaders to motivate and inspire co-workers to accept challenges. I think however praise cannot be just left alone at just an "atta boy" or "good job", praise sometimes needs to be quite emphasized based on what was at hand that deserved the praise in the first place.
Although the statement of praise to an individual is nice, I think some, or maybe most of us who recieve praise, enjoy opening the dialogue with those giving the praise, on their own experiences in regards to the matter. Its nice to be able to compare how you and your superior(leader) organized your thoughts and tackled the situation differently or if there were similarities.
In the long run, if you do see someone struggling or it appears they are treading water in a pool of concrete, that any suggestion, praise, or acknowledgement for progress made is positive and is important, because one would hope others would follow suit. One would hope that someone else is silently watching and will find it appropriate to start handing out praise as well and understand how effective it really is.

Pam McDonald said...

Well said, Andrew. My upcoming series about motivation should complement your thoughts.

Individuals are different in what motivates them and motivational triggers have changed as the way we work has changed. An effective leader knows when a word of praise is appropriate or when automony, mastery, and purpose are better suited.

Regardless, you are correct, taking the time to discuss the reason for the praise or just connecting in general is fitting and highly effective. Leaders who make time for their subordinates provide the example for others to follow.