These past three weeks, we’ve been sharing a series called What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managing. We began the first week with an overview. The second week we discussed Rewarding the Right Behaviors, and last week we discussed Ignoring Problem Behaviors.
This week, we’ll focus on another powerful learning that leaders and managers can take from puppy training—growing in your ability to notice the behaviors you want to reward.
When you first get a puppy, it’s easy to be very attentive since you’re working hard to enjoy them while managing biting, wetting and soiling the house, chewing on your furniture, shoes, and rugs. It’s pretty clear what behaviors you want to reward and those you want to ignore during those first weeks.
As time goes on, you start to relax your vigilance and let yourself get involved with the various demands of your life. It’s at this point that some of the more destructive behaviors happen—not because the puppy has changed but because you’ve relaxed and have turned your attention to other things.
Similarly, when you’re working with an employee on a specific behavior, you’re at first very vigilant and clear about what you’re trying to reward and ignore; but over time, you go back to your work and forget to keep tabs on their new behavior.
When you want someone to change a behavior you need to continue to give them information about their success, otherwise they’ll revert back to old patterns.
Habits are tough to break,
even when we decide we want to break them.
So, if you find that an employee was at first doing quite well with a behavior change and then things went south after several weeks, start paying attention once again. Acknowledge the individual when they’re doing the behavior you want.
Rewarding the right behavior means looking for it,
and not just looking for what’s wrong.
As we’ve said in earlier posts, our brains are hardwired to see what’s wrong; that’s just biology. Therefore, teaching yourself to keep your eyes open for what’s working—noticing behaviors that lead to success—takes discipline and patience.
This week, revisit the behavior changes you established a couple of weeks ago and check back in.
- Has the change continued?
- Could you offer more acknowledgment to keep the change on track?
Don’t be stingy with your praise. When someone is doing something well, go all out and share your enthusiasm for their success!