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Developing Positive Reinforcement Skill: Step 1 – Part Two

In Step 1 of the Leading with Positive Reinforcement: 5 Self-Development Steps, I covered the need to delete punitive verbal habits from your interpersonal style. It is difficult for any of us to admit that we are sabotaging employee relationships because we use words and body language that puts people off.It is probable that the verbal habits that create a relationship barrier between you and your employees will have the same effect on your peers, boss, and family.If you have worked on this and feel that you are careful in the way you talk to your employees, then please ignore this section and skip forward to the next part of step 1.

I recently spent several days in a manufacturing plant in America—in a company that says and does all the things fashionable to create employee engagement.As I had occasion to talk with the front line employees, they expressed dissatisfaction in regard to supervisory interpersonal behavior.The supervisor’s peers corroborated the employee’s concerns.

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Leading with Positive Reinforcement: 5 Self-Development Steps

Positive reinforcement works; it fulfills every employee’s basic need to feel valued—cared about by the organization, their supervisor and leadership.Positive reinforcement is precision recognition—it acknowledges the employees contribution in real time; it captures the moment when a valued added behavior—discretionary effort can be encouraged or discouraged.

Traditional rewards and recognition strategies do not facilitate employee behavior directly. They are most often presented for performance results and outcomes.Before the benefits of precise recognition—positively reinforcing specific behavior in real-time—were well known, management assumed that kudos received for results influenced the critical behaviors that led to those results.

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Positive Reinforcement: The Solution to the Recognition Paradox

For the last three decades, employee surveys have repeatedly pointed to recognition as being one of the critical ingredients in employee satisfaction, morale, motivation, and retention.

Rewards and recognition practices-- have reached an iconic status as the preferred means of motivating human performance. In light of the time and resources dedicated to these methods, it seems appropriate to examine the effects of these practices processes with the same lens we apply to other organizational systems. If they have a positive effect on employee engagement and discretionary effort, then the ROI will be validated and the investment of organizational resources they receive will be substantiated.

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Positive Reinforcement, Organizational Values, and Leadership

The term positive reinforcement has acquired some complex connotations over the past 30 years.In one sense the advocation and practice of positive reinforcement has ethical implications—it seems to embody humanism.The diligent delivery of duly earned recognition when an employee does something that adds value to an organization’s objectives feels like the right thing to do.The act seems to be an affirmation of the employee’s worth and value.

Organizational leaders are flooded with articles and advisors who proclaim the importance of creating a “Total Rewards,” company culture, and of having a “reward and recognition” strategy in place.Positive reinforcement, rewards, and recognition are given the status of “values,” and subsequently promote a patina of ethics—of goodness and good will to the business entity that supports these practices.

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