As I always do, I asked them why leaders in general are so poor about offering confirming feedback. I heard all the reasons you can imagine, some of which you use: don’t think about it, too busy, not your style, etc.
I realize that focusing on what’s wrong is the way you were trained: find a problem and solve it. But this approach is ineffective with people. Confirming feedback is essential to sustain what you want. Think back to your psychology 101 class and remember that the best way to extinct behavior in lab rats is to ignore it. They learn quickly to let go of unrecognized behavior in place of behavior that gets them what they want.
Now, I’m not comparing your people to lab rats, although there may be more similarities than you care to admit. But the lesson is clear: you have to reinforce the behavior you want from your people. I’m not talking about giving out trophies because someone comes to work on time three days in a row. I am talking about recognizing the behavior and actions you want to see again.
“I really like how you think through a situation before you ask me for help.”
“When you say you will get something to me by a certain date, it’s nice to know I can count on you.”
“You do a nice job taking the time to work with the first-year staffers.”
And it goes both ways.
“Thanks for taking a few moments to help me through this. Now I know what I need to do.”
“I know you don’t always have time, but I like it when you give me immediate feedback.”
“Thanks for introducing me to this client. It helps me know put a face with an engagement.”
No more excuses. If you leave this week without giving 15 confirming comments (that’s 3 a day), you aren’t leading.
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