A relative of mine who is a teacher went all year without hearing any affirmation from her boss. At the end of the year she asked her supervisor if she had done anything positive. “Sure, lots,” was the response. Why did the boss withhold this information all year?
My three daughters are volleyball players, so over the past 15 years I’ve talked to a lot of players and parents about their experience with coaches. Most complain that coaches only focus on mistakes. Players (and employees) want constructive feedback and want to improve, but without getting some affirmation for what they are doing right, it creates a negative, anxious atmosphere.
Why are bosses and coaches so reluctant to doll out affirmation?
Myths About Affirmation
It will make people complacent.
The truth is that it affirmation increases loyalty and engagement. If you want more from your people, show that you believe in them and mention their positive behaviors.
You can’t improve unless you focus on what’s wrong.
Wrong. The truth is that you get more of what you pay attention to. Remember the 9:1 ratio? It takes nine positives to counteract one negative.
You’re getting a paycheck. Isn’t that enough?
No. It’s not enough. When people say, “You aren’t paying me enough,” they usually aren’t referring to the value of their contribution. They are referring to putting up with your negativity and criticism. A positive relationship with the leader, not pay, is the great differentiator.
This is life. People need to toughen up.
We need to help people develop resilience, but this isn’t the military. People don’t want to go to war, they want to go to work. Here’s a great post about resilience from Seth Godin.
Support and affirmation are the team’s job.
Wrong. You are the role model. You set the tone.
If all I do is compliment people, nobody will improve or respect me.
If this is your attitude, you are unlikely to go overboard on affirmation. More significantly, though, it’s time to check your ego at the door and develop better leadership skills. Kindness and respect aren’t mutually exclusive.
Where did you learn to eliminate affirmation and positivity? What evidence do you have that it’s the most effective way to get better performance?
For the players and employees out there, here’s a great post from Dan Rockwell, about how to receive criticism and use it to your advantage.
Want to deliver constructive feedback with positivity? Try this.