In simple terms, reinforcement theory works to encourage positive behavior or behavior you want to see repeated. and to punish behavior you don't want to be repeated. Today, leaders should strive to motivate people with a carrot more than with a stick. Here are some ideas for being a positive encourager in terms rewards positive behavior:
1. Timely- All rewards should be given immediately after the behavior is demonstrated. If someone completes a project on time and on budget, lands a new deal for your company or department, goes the extra mile to help a coworker, fixes a machine that has been down for over a week, etc., you should thank or reward the person for that effort right away. Don't wait until next week and definitely don't wait until their next performance review.
2. Specific- Reference what behavior or action you want to continue. A pat on the back or a "that-a-boy" may leave someone wondering exactly what you are praising them for. For example, a good specific praise may be, "Jim, I really appreciate how you stayed late to help John complete the quarterly mail outs. It not only helped him understand how they are done, but it gave him the confidence to know that you care and that he can handle it on his own next time."
3. Sincere- People can see through a rehearsed or forced reward or praise. Don't say it or give it if you don't mean it.
4. Personal- This is where what motivates one person, may not motivate another. Jim stayed late, so he may want an afternoon off to spend time with his family. He would find this rewarding. John, however, may value a gift card to the Starbucks down the street since he is addicted to those chi lattes. The key to this one is to know your people.
5. Proportional- All rewards should be in proportion to the time and effort expended on the behavior you want to continue. Staying late one night may only warranted a sincere thank you. Staying late all all month may warrant a day off, or more. If staying late for a month led to saving a key customer account and helping land another key customer that is going to double your revenue, a bonus check in proportion to the revenue or profit generated may be in order.
What do you find is most encouraging to your staff?