You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is an all too common sentiment. Appreciation, gratitude, stopping to smell the roses, then going a little further and seeing the best in people and situations. Its not always easy but it’s a crucial part of success. I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who told me that they didn’t realise how valued and important they were to their organisation until they announced their resignation. Numerous compliments and words of praise were sent their way when colleagues found out they were leaving, however this positive feedback was largely absent throughout their time at the organisation. This story is not unusual and troubled me motivating me to write this article.
Traditional workplace practices encourage providing feedback to staff early and regularly when they are not performing or meeting expectations. This approach encourages managers and supervisors to focus on and be fearful of, errors and inefficiencies amongst their team. Other workplace practices encourage managers to start a performance discussion with positive feedback, then provide constructive feedback and then end with positive feedback. The thinking behind this is that if you consistently offer feedback around problems and issues, then staff will learn from this and get better at their job.
Current trends in psychology suggest that focusing on someone’s strengths and being generous with positive feedback, produces much better results.
How? This is so clear to me when I consider it from another perspective. I am an avid golfer and have been for many years. If I had a coach in my early golfing years whose only feedback had been that my swing wasn’t right, my grip was off, and I wasn’t hitting the ball far enough despite my best efforts, I would very likely feel defensive, lose confidence, and may even have given up on golf. On the other hand if my coach encouraged me and gave me praise for my efforts, I’d be motivated to do my best, and I’d even be more likely to take on feedback about what I can do better.
A big part of motivating a team when you are in a leadership role is seeing someone’s potential and expressing that you have confidence and trust in them to do the job. The focus is on identifying and enhancing people’s unique strengths and capabilities. This does not mean avoiding areas of development and learning, it means using an individual’s strengths as an opportunity to discuss growth and learning.
One of the most challenging aspects of managing people is that there is no ‘text book’ approach. Each person has their own unique blend of personality traits, skills, experience, and capabilities. As a leader you can use this knowledge with job design to create new levels of motivation and bring out the best in people. Leaders need to adapt their styles and approach to different personalities within their teams. Appreciating what the individuals in your team or organisation have to offer allows you to fit tasks/roles to people and to position staff strategically where they will do their best work, much like a coach does in a football team.
At AccessEAP we want to help you bring out the best in your staff. Our Relationship Management team have recently completed a very successful strengths project, a case study on the results and process will be available via our website this month. In addition we offer a range of services which can assist you with understanding your team, and identify how to support and develop them in their roles. This may include consultation with one of our senior clinicians for tips on communicating with your team, and perhaps even utilising our coaching service.
I am delighted to add that I have a new golf coach who praises my swing, my grip and overall ability. Directions for improvement are delivered with lots of positive encouragement. Last game I lost a stroke off my handicap!