Do you focus on what worked well or what needs improvement? There is a big difference. Comparing good performance is often more effective than pointing out shortcomings.
The psychology of work has never been more important. Worker engagement and performance need to be better than ever before and finding ways to build a high-performance team is more complicated that it seems.
The “do it or die” approach died long ago. While there may be still be pockets of this authoritarian approach it often only exists in the most remote rural areas where there are not many choices for employment.
Feedback on performance is critical to enhance the productivity and efficiency of the team. How feedback is delivered or experienced by the recipient will determine its effectiveness.
Is there a way to deliver feedback on what needs improvement without emphasizing the shortcoming? Some argue yes, some no, and some will say, “It depends.”
Novice feedback navigators will often suggest the sandwich method. It can work, but is only about as good as two-week-old pastrami.
This is where the psychology of work really comes into play. In simple terms, you’ll get more of what you focus on. For that very reason, it is more important to focus on good results instead of on poor or bad results.
Here is a great example.
A call center manager suggests that to improve agent performance she works with each agent on an individual basis. An agent who receives poor feedback or gets a call elevated to the manager is subject to some individual performance review. The review begins with listening to the recorded call. Then corrective action on the poor performance is suggested.
This is illustrating, highlighting, and comparing performance against the bad.
A better way is comparing to good performance.
A different call center manager decides morning huddles are an effective way to start the day. The huddles get everyone on the same page and positions the team to launch.
Appropriately preparing, this center manager listens periodically to some of the highest performers previously recorded calls and chooses one to highlight. In advance of the huddle she dissects the call looking for good moments of agent to customer interaction.
During the huddle she plays challenging parts of the previously recorded call, except she pauses the recording right before the agent interaction is delivered. During the pause she asks the team key questions, such as, “What would you do at this point? What would you say?”
This is a form of experiential learning, it invokes self-reflection. She asks openly for some reactions to her question and debriefs the whole group by highlighting the good, illustrating the good, and focusing on what went right.
In turn, her team delivers more and more of the good.
Higher Performing Teams
You get higher performing teams when you focus on positive performance instead comparing bad performance to good and asking for change.
That’s not all. When this performance management approach is used across time individual reflection starts to occur more often. It inspires learning and often employees start to self-identify short-comings on their own.
Consider that this a pull process, instead of push.
It is playing offense instead of defense. Both are important but be cautious of when, where, and how you place your emphasis.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.