Kendall L. Stewart, M.D.
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
Leaders tend to take the long view. We are naturally focused on results. We are not looking for immediate gratification. We are pleased by incremental progress, but we view it as necessary but insufficient. We understand that lasting change takes time. We have learned to persevere in the face of adversity. We have learned to do what needs to be done in spite of how we feel. We are resilient. We are patient. If we have not learned these things, we have begun to look for something else to do instead of being a leader.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Most people need to feel special every day. They are looking for immediate gratification. They are not inclined to take the long view. Their view is pretty much limited to the end of their shift. These workers are clear about their motivation. They work to live. They do not live to work. While this motivation annoys highly motivated leaders to no end, it is not necessarily a bad thing—if you know how to manage such attitudes. These folks form the essential core of every organization. They are never going to turn into self-motivated movers and shakers. They need daily positive reinforcement. An employee once told me that he should be given a bonus for showing up on time. And he really believed it.
How can you do it?
1. Understand others’ needs. The Golden Rule is seriously flawed. People do not want to be treated the way you want to be treated; they want to be treated the way they want to be treated.
2. Understand the power of positive reinforcement. It works better than negative reinforcement—and much better than no reinforcement at all.
3. Watch for incremental progress. You will see a lot more of this than dramatic progress. You may have to watch closely and you will have to measure your results regularly, but finding some incremental progress to hang your hat on may be just enough to keep your change initiative alive for another month.
4. Make a big deal of it. People enjoy celebrations. Remember, people go nuts when their team wins even though they had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome. They still feel special. That’s how powerful the need to feel special is. Don’t miss this opportunity.
How do you celebrate incremental progress?