Positive Influence:

Cutting Edge Ideas on Behavior-Based Safety, Quality and Leadership

Engaging Work Dialogs

Engaging Work Dialogs

I begin this blog with a declaration that I intend to validate throughout the body of this entry: The key to employee engagement is emotional commitment which is in turn most closely linked to discretionary effort.Rewards, transactional positive reinforcement (supervisor occasionally using verbal reinforcement), and incentives in general do not change behavior in the long term; the biochemistry of the brain—serotonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters—the chemicals of employee engagement, of emotions and learning—are most effectively catalyzed through ongoing manager activities and attributes.Reinforcing work dialogs, which in turn build reinforcing manager-employee relationships, are the most effective means of eliciting employee emotional commitment to the job and the organization.

In 2004, the Corporate Leadership Council published a study—Driving Employee Performance and Retention through Engagement: A Quantitative Analysis of the Effectiveness of Employee Engagement Strategies. They surveyed 50,000 employees in 59 organizations within 27 countries.These data support the results of many other studies on employee engagement: Individual acts of reward and reinforcement do not compensate for a negative relationship with one’s organization or one’s manager.The best way to achieve emotional commitment from employees is through the creation of an emotionally nurturing organizational environment—a “reinforcing environment,” a history of reinforcement--a reinforcing relationship.

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The Most Powerful Tool for Positive Influence: Attention

What is the most effective tool that you have to influence the behavior of others – whether you use it purposefully or by accident? The answer is so simple that most people can’t believe it. It is your attention – eye contact, grunting, nodding, giggling – any response you make to another person’s behavior affects that behavior.

Anything and everything someone in your presence says or does is being influenced by your reaction, your eye contact – even your obvious attempts to act disinterested are an acknowledgment that has an effect on the behavior they are engaged in.

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Positively Reinforce a Behavior: Recognize Accomplishments and Results

Positively Reinforce a Behavior: Recognize Accomplishments and Results

There are some critical misunderstandings that cause a great deal of confusion when discussing different ways of acknowledging employee performance. The first is the reciprocal use of the term “positive reinforcement” and the word “recognition.” Positive reinforcement describes the outcome of an interaction between manager and employee that occurs while the employee is doing or saying something (behaving) of value. It describes a real time relationship between something an employee is saying or doing and an immediate positive experience or effect created by a management verbal behavior.

You lift the fork with filet mignon to your mouth and the lifting of the fork is positively reinforced by two immediate consequences: 1) the food gets to your mouth; 2) It taste delicious. So the behavior of “lifting the fork toward my mouth” has been positively reinforced. That’s what’s called a natural positive reinforcer; it was just you and the environment. No one else participated in your experience.

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Positive Reinforcement is a Skill

Positive Reinforcement is a Skill

If you read the available management literature, you soon run into a mandate that is seldom questioned: Praise your employees often; give them a “thank you” when they do a good job; recognize their efforts; use verbal positive reinforcement for value added behavior.Supervisors and managers are told unequivocally, that this is the best way to increase performance, enhance supervisory-employee relations, create employee engagement, and increase retention—to name a few.

Why then do climate surveys and 360° surveys consistently uncover contradictory evidence? Why do surveyed employees working in companies with formal and informal recognition systems feel they are not being “recognized” for their efforts?Survey data is inconsistent, but results (by reputable sources) report “78% of the employees surveyed said they had not been recognized by their supervisor for their work,” and “52% or the turnover in business and industry is related to supervisory-employee discord,” (irrespective of what exit interviews say.)

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Positive Supervision

Positive Supervision

Learning how to change or influence the behavior of others is simple in theory, but in the devil, as usual, is in the details.The books tell you to praise employees for good work.Sometimes they don’t like it because they either think you are faking it to make them work harder or they are uncomfortable because it is out of character for you.

You can be successful in establishing a more positive relationship with your direct reports if you read the series that begins below:

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Leadership Mistakes to Avoid

Leadership Mistakes to Avoid

Always try to say positive things about your direct reports when you are going to ask them to do something extra, or something onerous that no one else wants to do. You have to set them up right or they may try to back out.

If they are not performing well and it looks like you’re going to have to fire them, try not to make them suspicious. You don’t want to imply that they need to change their work behavior; that would make them sad.

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