Posts Tagged ‘positive feedback’

Be Happy: The Benefits of Positive Feedback

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

I’ve written a lot about how important positive, or confirming, feedback is to a person’s performance. The reason is simple: People tend to do more of what they’re praised or rewarded for. If I tell you that I like the way you did something, you’re more likely to do that again. But there’s another reason positive feedback can improve performance.

A number of years ago I was coaching a race driver who had been a mid-pack performer, mostly due to a lack of experience. In other words, he had good basic skills and techniques, but rarely put them all together because he just hadn’t developed the ability to do so yet. The best he had qualified for a race all season had been 12th.

Prior to a qualifying session about two-thirds of the way through the season I asked this driver to tell me about the best performance he had had in any activity in his life. He recounted – and replayed in his mind – a hockey game he’d played a few years earlier where he had been totally in the zone, and played the best ever. During our conversation, I asked him what emotions he felt during that time, and it was obvious from his facial expressions how positive they had been.

Moments after our conversation he got in the car and went out for qualifying. He put it on the pole, setting fast time amongst two dozen drivers. First place!

What happened? Did he gain extra skill all of a sudden? No, he simply accessed all of his abilities within him. The replaying of the past success had triggered a performance state of mind. It had made him happy.

When someone is provided with positive feedback, it triggers a performance state of mind; it makes them happy. And, while it may seem simple, research study after research study have proven that people perform better when they’re happy. Read Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage for details.

So, not only does positive feedback confirm for a person that they should do more of what they were praised for, but it puts them in a better state of mind. It actually makes them happier. Either way, they’re more likely to perform at a higher level because of it.

Of course, the feedback needs to be genuine…

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More of What’s Working Means Less of What’s Not

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

If one does enough of the right stuff, you won’t have time to do the wrong stuff.

Improving performance may just be a matter of focusing more on what’s working, and less on what’s not working.

Bright spots.” That’s what Chip and Dan Heath call them in their book, Switch. They write about the approach Save The Children used to help mothers in Vietnam provide better nutrition to their children by learning from the few that were doing it best, about a solutions-focused therapist helping “problem” kids in schools by helping them focus on what they did well, and about a company that focused on what was working in drug sales to help market their products.

Psychologist Martin Seligman calls the approach of focusing on what’s working with peak performers, rather than on what’s not working with people with problems, “Positive Psychology.” He’s written extensively about the topic in Learned Optimism, Authentic Happiness, and other books.

Shawn Achor talks about focusing on what makes people successful in his brief book, Bringing the Science of Positive Psychology to Life. Watch and listen to Achor talk about this in this fantastic video.

Marcus Buckingham recommends focusing on what’s working in his book, Now Discover Your Strengths when he says mangers should focus more on employees’ strengths than on fixing their weaknesses. And so should you, he says.

So, what do most business leaders, team leaders and coaches focus on? What’s not working. They focus on fixing the problems. They spend most of their time and effort working on the problems.

Would a person, a team, or a business be further ahead if they focused on replicating what was working, rather than on fixing the things that were not working? It seems obvious that if you or I simply did a lot more of what’s working, we may not even have time to do what needs fixing. We’ll be so busy doing all the right things that we won’t have time to do the wrong things.

If you want to help someone else, tell them what they’re doing right. Give them confirming feedback. People tend to do more of what they are rewarded for, so reward someone with feedback about what they’re doing well. They will do more of that.

Take a few minutes right now and make a list of all the things you’re doing right. Come on, do it. If you don’t write them down, this won’t really work, so go ahead and start making a list. And don’t be too modest, but be honest. Pretend you’re someone else, like your manager, your coach, or a friend, and ask yourself what you’re doing right. What would they say? Write it down.

Now, just do more of those things. This may be the simplest way to enhance your performance.

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