Positive Influence:

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

The Emotional Roots of Employee Engagement

The Emotional Roots of Employee Engagement

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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How to Identify the Behavior's That Lead to Success

How to Identify the Behavior's That Lead to Success

What is a “behavior analyst?” Behavior analysts are psychologists who specialize in arranging (designing) physical and social environments to elicit useful, productive, value-added human behavior(s). Behavior analysts are experts in changing human behavior. When I use the word behavior, I am referring to something a human says (verbal behavior) or does (non-verbal, physical behavior), and behavior analysts work with fine grained, very specific behaviors when the situation requires them to do so.

In business and industry, behavior analysts help organizations improve human performance. The core purpose of quality initiatives and management development efforts is to change employee behaviors. U.S. corporations spend billions of dollars trying to encourage their employees to do things differently (change their behavior)—to come up with new ideas, work more safely, improve interpersonal effectiveness (talk to employees in a manner that encourages engagement and commitment to the companies performance goals), and do things to eliminate waste.

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Performance Feedback that Employees Welcome

Performance Feedback that Employees Welcome

I have to admit that I am one of those people who becomes uncomfortable when someone says positive things about my work. Of course I do want to get feedback to know how I’ve done, and I prefer positive feedback over the alternative. For me, I like to hear someone say something specific about the work rather than some comment about me.

For instance I prefer: “I really liked the idea you had for implementing OBM as a participative initiative rather than a management-driven process.”

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How to Become a Positive Reinforcer

How to Become a Positive Reinforcer

Most supervisors and managers want to be liked and respected by their employees. Many of us don't have a likable personality; we are not well suited to be supervisors. We either don't have the social skills or we are too impatient or we are too perfectionistic. But, we have the job and we're doing our best.

We're told supervisors who get the highest levels of performance from their employees use positive reinforcement (R+, positive verbal comments about employee job performance). The problems is, positive reinforcement does not work – your efforts to R+ someone are not effective – if you have a poor relationship with the person you are trying to R+. Your relationship with an employee does not improve just because you try to make positive comments about something they have done on the job.

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Corporate Culture as an Extension of Leader Behavior

Corporate Culture as an Extension of Leader Behavior

If you Google “Organizational Culture,” you get over 4,000,000 search results. Wikipedia has one of the first results, and as you scan the description you immediately began to blanch with confusion. If you work in a corporation that will soon undertake a “culture change” initiative, you may begin to tear up. Here is the first paragraph of Wikipedia’s description:

“Organizational culture, or corporate culture, comprises the attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of an organization. It has been defined as the specific collection of values and norms that are shared by people and groups in an organization and that control the way they interact with each other and with stakeholders outside the organization. Organizational values are beliefs and ideas about what kinds of goals members of an organization should pursue and ideas about the appropriate kinds or standards of behavior organizational members should use to achieve these goals. From organizational values develop organizational norms, guidelines or expectations that prescribe appropriate kinds of behavior by employees in particular situations and control the behavior of organizational members towards one another.” —Wikipedia

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Be Positive, but Be the Boss

Be Positive, but Be the Boss

Always try to say positive things about their work 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.

Don’t attempt to learn too much about the actual work they do. All that detail gets boring. Knowing the job is their business. If you make a few mistakes – so what. You have a big job and a lot on your plate.

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