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Previous blogs have summarized the first 4 steps in the Cycle of Excellence and referenced in the book Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (Harvard Business Press, 2011).
Recap: Dr. Hallowell, the author, a psychiatrist and behavior expert, draws on brain science, performance research, and his own experience to present the Cycle of Excellence process and the 5 steps to build peak performance:
- Select: Put the right people in the right job, and give them responsibilities that “light up” their brains.
- Connect: Strengthen interpersonal bonds among team members.
- Play: Help people unleash their imaginations at work.
- Grapple and Grow: When the pressure’s on, enable employees to achieve mastery of their work.
- Shine: Use the right rewards to promote loyalty and stoke your people’s desire to excel.
We continue with the fifth step.
Step 5: Shine
People rarely give out too much appreciation. In my work with leaders and executive teams implementing Quality Management Systems and Healthy Workplace programs, I witness the emphasis on identifying deficits, gaps, and non-compliance. Mistakes, unsatisfactory performance, and non-conforming processes get too much attention. Overwhelming energy is spent on analyzing weaknesses and attributing blame.
Not enough attention is given to recognizing strengths, talents, and attitudes. An analysis of what is working well and celebratory meetings focused on attributing praise is rare in the workplace. Yet research shows most people learn better from positive reinforcement of success than focusing on improving weaknesses. Every employee should feel recognized and valued for what he or she does well.
“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” Alexander Pope, “Essay on Criticism”
I would add to this quote: To acknowledge successes, divine!
People learn from mistakes and continue to develop when their successes are noticed and acknowledged. Letting them know that you appreciate efforts and victories large and small will motivate them to shine.
Ironically, when a person is underperforming or otherwise disengaged, lack of recognition may be the root cause. An employee will rarely come right out and tell you that she feels undervalued. It’s one of those dreaded conversations that people avoid while the issue festers. An astute leader and manager will be alert for the subtle signs that an employee is suffering.
Preventive and Predictive Action
I encourage my executive clients to follow a process of preventive and predictive action rather than fighting fires when employees disengage and problems arise:
- Be on the lookout for moments when you can catch someone doing something right. It doesn’t have to be unusual or spectacular. Don’t withhold compliments.
- Be generous with praise. People will pick up on your use of praise and positive acknowledgment and will begin to emulate for themselves and each other.
- Recognize attitudes as well as achievements. Optimism and a growth mindset are two attitudes to single out and encourage. Look for other desirable attitudes.
Notice that the above actions have a positive-focus aka “positive psychology interventions”.
Positive Psychology Interventions
Insights from the recent Canadian Positive Psychology Conference in Ottawa validated positive-focused interventions. Try a few simple positive psychology interventions to add praise and positive acknowledgement to your workplace culture:
- Begin your meetings with “what’s going well”. End with “what we learned today”. Best Practice: Make it safe for everyone to engage in positive feedback.
- Install a Gratitude Bulletin Board beside your Health and Safety Bulletin Board.
- Post-the-positive on your Employee Communications Board on a regular basis including positive affirmations; acknowledgements; employee achievements behind the scenes and outside the workplace; and positive news. Based on personal experience with clients and their employees’ response, I guarantee this one positive intervention will stoke your employees’ desire to excel and shine.
When you’re in sync with your people, you create positive energy and opportunities for peak performance. Working together can be one of life’s greatest joys—and it’s what we’re wired to do. Watching people grow and excel can be most gratifying – it’s what leaders are wired to do.
What do you think about this?
- Are you watching for and acknowledging what is going well?
- Are you modeling a culture of praise and positive feedback
- Are you going beyond your workplace celebrities and acknowledging the work been done behind the scenes and bright lights?
Books and Audiobooks
Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (Harvard Business Press, 2011)