We often hear complaints about bosses who only focus on what is not working and never acknowledge and celebrate what is going well. Other clients describe their experience of bosses who have nothing to say about their performance until they have made a mistake. Some clients even describe their belief that their bosses are lying in wait – ready to pounce on the one bad thing that happens; so, we thought we would take a few moments to look at the power (and intelligence) of looking for the positive contributions and successes your direct reports, peers and even leaders are making to the organization.
Staying positive doesn’t mean that we are suggesting that you shouldn’t deal with poor performance; rather we know that the most effective approach to developing excellence and growing your team requires you to shift your feedback to one of praise more often than criticism.
One of the key actions we believe a leader must take to be effective is to recognize the contribution of the individuals they work with – both positive and negative. In our experience, many managers report saying very little to their teams unless something is going wrong. Common sense certainly dictates that you need to let people know when they are messing up but there is more to managing people than pointing out where they have made errors. In terms of the long term management of people, the newest research data indicates that if you want to truly influence and shape the performance of those you work with, you are better off catching them doing things well and celebrating those behaviors.
If you do have a problem employee, it’s most effective to give them clear directions and expectations and then look for the moments where they have succeeded so that they can build on what is working. More often than not employees are unsuccessful because managers have failed to articulate clearly what they want. The clearer you are with your directions, and the more you can “catch” people doing it successfully (and the way you like) the more empowered they become to act independently.
Take a few moments today and think about your staff – do you give them clear directions and catch them doing it right? If not, find an opportunity to give this a try. You will be surprised by the response you get.
And for those of you being managed by bosses who leave you feeling you cannot succeed, make sure that you understand what your boss is looking for, what doing it “right” means to him or her, and be sure to ask for feedback so that you can begin to feel and celebrate your successes! We know there are a few bosses out there who will remain negative no matter what you do, but you can take action on your own behalf and connect with coworkers to create a culture with them that honors contributions and celebrates success.