Positive Leadership has also been recognised as a Top 50 Leadership Expert to Follow on Twitter.

Follow us on Twitter @posleadership


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Positive Leadership: Helping Others Shine

Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT says, “Success has a much greater influence on the brain than failure.” 

Ned Hallowell comments in Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People: "While of course mistakes need to be acknowledged and, one hopes, learned from, it may be more likely, from a purely neurological point of view, that a person will learn more from a success than a failure.” The brain’s plasticity—its ability to grow and change throughout life—means that none of us are stuck with who we are. With the proper attention we can learn to perform better. “All people want to work hard and will work hard, given the right job and the right conditions, because it feels supremely good to excel.”

Hallowell points out that acknowledgment or recognition serves two important functions. Of course there is the familiar purpose of giving the recipient encouragement, motivation and greater confidence, but recognition also promotes moral behaviour through connection. Hallowell explains: “When a person feels recognised and connected to the larger group, she knows viscerally, not just intellectually, that she has made a contribution others value. Not only does this motivate her to do more and try harder, but it instills a desire to look out for the larger group…. It leads a person to do the right thing even when no one is looking.”

Showing appreciation and giving recognition is part of the Cycle of Excellence process he calls 'shine'. In our busy culture it is easy to overlook opportunities to acknowledge others. Noticing the positive is a daily challenge.
In Shine, Hallowell offers these ten tips for promoting shine with the people you influence:
  • Recognise effort, not just results. Of course, you want the results, but if you recognise ongoing effort, results will more likely ensue. Cheerleading works.
  • Notice details. Generic acknowledgment pales next to specific recognition.
  • Try, as much as possible, to provide recognition in person. E-mail packs much less of a punch than human moments.
  • In meetings—and everywhere—try to make others look good, not bad. Scoring points off the backs of others usually backfires.
  • As a manager, you should know that the self-esteem of each employee is perhaps your most important asset. Recognition is a powerful tool to preserve self-esteem.
  • Acknowledge people’s existence! Try always to say hello, give a nod of the head, a high five, a smile in passing. It’s withering to pass someone and feel as if that person didn’t even see you.
  • Tap into the power of positive feedback. Remember that positive feedback often consolidates gains better than learning from mistakes.
  • Monitor progress. Performance improves when a person’s progress toward a goal is monitored regularly.
  • Remember, as a manager, the more you recognise others, the more you establish the habit of recognition of hard work and progress as part of the organizational culture.
  • Bring in the marginalised people. In most organisations, about 15 percent of people feel unrecognised, misunderstood, devalued, and generally disconnected. Not only is recognition good for that 15 percent to help them feel valued, it is good for the other 85 percent as well, as it boots the positive energy across the organisation.
Hallowell reminds us that “recognition is so powerful because it answers a fundamental human need, the need to feel valued for what we do” and as leaders we are in a unique position to offer or withhold that recognition.