Archives for January 2010

Gifts That Keep On Giving – Symbolic Awards That Tell a Story

  By Michael McCarthy   Once upon a time, Performance Improvement Consultant Russell Justice wisely said: "The best positive reinforcement is anything that gives us a story to tell."   People go home from work with stories to tell every day. Most of the stories are not very positive. We want to give people good stories to tell.  Good reinforcement “creates” a story to tell.    People say, “You won’t believe what the boss did today,” “Guess what Joe said,” or “Let me tell you what we did.”  We want them talking about the fun they had, and the excitement of accomplishment.    At the appreciation dinner for the Nassau Habitat for Humanity in Fernandina, Florida, construction manager Patrick McCarthy found unique ways to give positive recognition to hard-working Habitat volunteers.   Using anecdotes and incidents from their work days, he created clever items that symbolized events, and running jokes among the “regulars” on the crew. Many volunteers were golfers, so Patrick modified golf clubs to create chuckles all around.   The volunteers from the framing crew each received a golf club with a hammer- head on the end.  Presenting these, Patrick deadpanned: “The only way Fred can swing his arm is with a … Continue reading

We Affect Other People With Almost Everything We Do

        When I was 11,  I cut the grass in my family’s yard all by myself for the first time. Tired and sweaty, I was so proud. A family friend drove into the driveway just as I was finishing. His first words out of the car were “You missed a spot behind the shrubs.” I was crushed. Why hadn’t he noticed the rest of the four acres that I had completed correctly with so much sweat and effort? I suppose his eye was trained to look for the imperfect spot. I never wanted to cut the grass again.          Most of us know the power of other people’s approval or disapproval in motivating us to keep trying. Or to feel like throwing in the towel. A smile and a comment showing that someone values our efforts will keep us going for a long time.          Joanna tells about a week when her supervisor was out of town; she had been working through lunches and until 7:00 P.M. every night to meet department deadlines. She was feeling burned out, she said, when Wayne, a co-worker, came and stood for a minute at her cubicle door one evening, watching her work. “You work hard,” … Continue reading

From “Burned” to “Juiced”

   A manufacturer had hired 24 employees from a company which had laid them off. Most had been with that company for a long time and had trained newer co-workers (who weren’t laid off). These 24 people were still feeling “burned” from their experience when their new boss asked them to cross-train each other. The goal was to become more flexible with short-turnaround customer orders. The workers found every reason in the book not to teach co-workers what they knew:    “I don’t have time.”    “I can do it better than him.”    “She’ll mess it up and I’ll have to fix it later.”    Later, during a workshop, they discussed the pros and cons of cross-training (to the company’s health and to their own job security). They completed several “teach someone a task you’re good at” activities during the workshop and received positive comments from co-workers about the skills they shared   They made these activities a more interesting and fun experience by creating a poster to track the number of tasks they taught each other, each jotting down the task next to the learners’ and teachers’ names.   Once each week, they had a five-minute huddle around the poster and reviewed new … Continue reading