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Management Skills: Positive Reinforcement in the Workplace


    Dina Giolitto, Knowledge Level: All Levels, Keywords: management, positive reinforcement, team leaders, team concept

Most people just want to be appreciated. If you're a manager, that's something to seriously think about as you set the tone for maximum productivity.

Ever work for someone who preferred a 'bullying and intimidation' managerial style? This type of bullying doesn't involve spitballs and shiners in the schoolyard, but it might as well because it produces the same feelings of inferiority, worthlessness and mistrust among peers. It turns workers disloyal, dishonest, and downright disgusted. The bullying managerial style is way out of fashion, and for a reason: it doesn't work! What DOES work? Positive reinforcement. Why? When you reward your workers, they perform better.

Ever notice how every big company works in 'teams' these days? The notion of the corporate team model was dreamed up by someone who realized that all folks really want is to be appreciated for their talent and ability. If you team up four or five well-selected people, each with a unique, highly-developed skill; cheer them on and reward them for all their accomplishments... what you're going to get is some jacked-up productivity and a stellar team that will follow you to the ends of the earth.

What are some ways to let your team members know how much they're valued; and in doing so, spur them on to success?

Accentuate the positive. Is there a way that you can put a positive spin on a negative criticism? As a manager, this is such an important skill. Let's say the writer you recently brought on board isn't 'catching on' to the company's prescribed way of creating headlines. You may feel frustrated and tempted to chastise this person, but what will a thoughtless reprimand do for her productivity in the long run? Instead, soften your critique and infuse it with a positive message, maybe something like, "You did a great job catching all of those typos but I'd love for you to give me a couple more headline options before we hand this in." Tread lightly on those fragile young egos; pride is such a delicate thing!

Open the lines of communication. As a manager, you're busy dealing with people on the outside, which means you may not always be aware of what goes on behind the scenes. Encourage group discussions where your workers can air their grievances. When there's a conflict, let your employees hash it out while you act as the calm and rational mediator. Sometimes all it takes is a few words hitting the air to clear up a misunderstanding. If you give your people a little more control and the benefit of the doubt, they'll feel appreciated, depended on, and willing to go that extra mile.

Always play fair. A biased judge can't make objective decisions for the good of the group. You may feel more personally connected to one team member over another, but how is that relevant to the job at hand? It isn't! Just because you were chumming around on the golf course with Chad last week doesn't mean his poor performance should go unnoticed at review time. And even though Nerdy Nancy says things at lunch that make you cringe, it doesn't give you the right to criticize her on the job when she's doing everything correctly. If you show favoritism, your workers WILL notice... and this will make them feel EXTREMELY unappreciated. So play fair, coach!

Match the skill to the task at hand. Ensure team excellence is by selecting the correct person for the job! Suppose you hire Jeff because he's great at number crunching, and Lucy because she has experience in customer service. Later, you come to learn that Lucy is really not all that great with the clients, but she's gold on the expense calculations... meanwhile, Jeff is a master shmoozer. Instead of trying to mold Lucy into something she's not, a quick-switch of responsibilities is all it takes to keep this team operating at prime productivity. When each of your workers is well-chosen for a task, they'll all do a good job together. And when they do a good job, they're truly appreciated. Team spirit is some pretty magical stuff!

Encourage workers to 'figure it out on their own.' By this I do NOT mean tell them to solve their own problems and send them away. That's no way to help your underlings grow. Remember to feel complimented when a subordinate approaches you with an issue. He came to you because he trusts your judgement and seeks your approval. In turn, give your little bird his wings. Maybe share a story of when you may have had a similar problem in your own career. Offer up some general, advice, then assure them that he can find a positive and constructive way to fix the problem on his own. He'll walk away with a sense of pride, independence and new determination. And that's a great way to help someone feel appreciated!

Speak to people 'on the level.' Ever hear the expression, 'talking down to people?' It's one of my biggest pet peeves, and something that I try my hardest never to do. Even in the midst of praising someone, you can end up 'talking down' to them. When you say, "Jeannie, you did it, I am so proud of you!!" does it come out sounding like you're talking to a kindergartener who just learned to tie her own shoe? Yikes! There should never be a reason to sound parental in your professional communication with grown adults. Another way you might unintentionally 'talk down': offer advice and assume that it's a foreign concept to the person with whom you're speaking. How do you know she doesn't already practice what you preach? If you address your workers respectfully and treat them as mature adults, they might actually behave like mature adults!

Above all, have a little humility. Keep an open mind and an open heart, and lead with a firm and forgiving hand. Experience-wise, even if you're 20 years ahead of someone else, you're still just two human beings on this earth. And it's like I said: we all just want to be appreciated. So managers, show your workers a little respect and gratitude, and watch your productivity soar to new heights!

Find out how crisp, targeted copywriting can make a world of difference for your business. Dina Giolitto is a Copywriting Consultant with ten years of experience. Visit Wordfeeder.com for free tips on branding, copywriting, marketing and more. Request a project quote by email: seniorcopywriter@yahoo.com. . Article on management, positive reinforcement, team leaders, team concept by Dina Giolitto
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