The best leadership strategies are the ones that cause you to be better at developing committed employees. Employee performance is that extra something you’ve been looking for to move profitability, quality, safety and customer satisfaction to the next level.
The secret to great leadership strategies begins with positive reinforcement.
Now, I’m not talking about employee of the month programs or company picnics.
Nor am I referring to the annual performance reviews that create “winners” and “losers” in every company, every year. Studies show that these and other 20th century attempts at employee motivation often do more harm than good.
Behavioral science defines positive reinforcement as “any consequence that causes a behavior to repeat or increase in frequency”.
Think of it like this: You take a bite of a hot donut—it tastes so good….it’s like eating a cloud! And so you take another bite. And another.
That’s positive reinforcement at work.
Studies show that high levels of employee engagement drive profitability for your business. But how do you increase employee engagement?
You guessed it. Try some positive reinforcement.
The best leadership strategy you can have is one that ensures that your management system provides positive reinforcement for your employees when they do something extra or just do something well. But how, exactly, do you do this?
There are thousands of ways to provide positive reinforcement for your team—and my book is devoted to exploring all of them. From the science we know that positive reinforcement has to be delivered immediately. Employee satisfaction research shows that two of the most powerful reinforcers are:
1) “I get to make a difference at work” and
2) “My boss has thanked me recently for what I do.”
In a nod to this research, Steve Jobs once said, “I want to put a ding in the universe.” He was referring to the positive reinforcement gained when we create or do something that has value to the others. Hats off to you Steve–your ding is alive and well.
In addition to allowing your people to make a difference at work, a very powerful and simple kind of positive reinforcement involves the two most important words in the English language: Thank You.
You see, as business leaders we usually do a really, really good job telling our employees what they do wrong. We’ve got that down to a science.
But we forget to tell them what they do right. Studies show that over 70% of employees never hear their boss say “Thank You.”
How ironic! The one thing employees need the most (positive reinforcement) is the one thing they almost never receive. Sadly, even our schools and many families are plagued with the same problem.
One employee lamented, “When I make a mistake, my boss says something 100% of the time. When I put forth extra effort, or stay late to finish a project, he says nothing 99% of the time.”
When you and your leadership team fully understand and harness the remarkable power of positive reinforcement, your business will thrive. I’ve spent my life developing these behavior modification systems, and I can tell you that when you get the recipe right, you can cook up some amazing results.
One automotive sector company was struggling with quality problems, and high rates of scrap and re-work. Over one year’s time, they accumulated a pile of parts returned by customers because they didn’t meet specs, and the value of those parts collectively was almost $1 million. It was a mess.
They built a positive reinforcement system that got employees to generate more than 1300 ideas on how to fix that pile of parts. Two years later, over $2 million had been placed on that company’s bottom line due to positive reinforcement.
Of course, had they called my Mom, she could have helped them solve their problem a lot sooner. She learned all about positive reinforcement when I was four years old. You see, I wasn’t eating my Green Beans. In a stroke of maternal genius she said, “Son, if you eat your Green Beans, you can have some…… Ice Cream!” It worked. I’ve been eating green beans ever since. When my behavior change occurred, Mom gave me a hug, a smile, and a big bowl of ice cream.
And, I got all those positive reinforcers immediately, not at the end of the year in my annual kid performance review!
So add some “Green Beans & Ice Cream” to your leadership style, and watch your team’s performance move off the charts!
Bill Sims, Jr., is President of Green Bean Leadership. For more than 30 years, his Leadership Development Workshops have helped companies improve human performance & profitability through positive reinforcement. Bill’s book Green Beans & Ice Cream: The Remarkable Power of Positive Reinforcement is available at www.greenbeanleadership.com , Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and leading book stores globally.