The Must Haves in Positive Feedback
The purpose of positive feedback is to ensure that desired behaviours will occur more frequently in the future. According to the Corporate Leadership Council the critical “must haves” in your positive feedback conversation include the following:
Informal: make it something that happens frequently in day-to-day conversations and interactions
Immediate: provided immediately when you notice an action you want to reinforce (i.e. strengthen or encourage the use of specific behaviours you want to see more regularly)
Specific: focused on only one or two specific behaviours.
As you read these it becomes intuitively obvious why it is so important to have a system of 'management by walking around' (MBWA) or 'laps' for noticing what your people are doing.Positive feedback and a system for noticing what's going on are totally interdependent.
What to Do On Laps Here is what you should be doing when you're doing laps or MBWA. You need to be paying attention. Listen to what people are saying, notice what they are doing. Be prepared and able to give people on the spot help. Notice trends in behaviour. Provide informal, immediate and specific positive feedback to reinforce the work behaviour that is critical for success. The key is immediate.
Laps is a system to enable you to provide frequent positive feedback, or to quickly identify what work challenges your team are facing and help them solve the problems.
How Often to Do Laps At the front-line laps must be done daily. Ideally several times a day. Occasionally other things, or emergencies will get in the way. But if you have a plan system you will return to the daily routine quickly.
If you manage front-line staff and work in the same location as those staff we recommend a minimum of four laps per day.
If you manage other managers, and they are in the same location, we recommend a minimum of two laps per day.
If you manage other people who are in remote, another words different geographic locations to you, and they are low performers, we recommend you talk to them once daily by telephone or video.
If you manage other people remotely, and they are core or high performing, we recommend a minimum contact of twice per week, and ideally more often.
Why The High Frequency is Important Consider the following metaphor, which is a useful way to think about positive feedback and laps. If you have a sink, with the plug in the drain, and water is dripping from a tap into the sink, each individual drip will make very little difference. It won’t fill the sink. However, given sufficient time, the drips will accumulate until the sink fills to overflowing.
One lap and one piece of positive feedback is not going to change anyone's life, nor their motivation. However the constant repetition of laps and positive feedback over time, like the drips in the sink, make a massive difference to people's commitment to the job, feeling like they were in the right job, and delivering discretionary effort. It is the consistent repetition of positive feedback over time that makes the difference. This is why it is important for feedback to happen frequently, day-to-day. The more laps you do, the higher the performance of your team.
Spontaneity is Important If you are not spontaneous, and random in your laps, you won't get a true picture of what is happening. People will be expecting you and they will be on task. If you do your laps at the same time every day according to a routine, your people people will think you have a routine and are not truly interested in them. Being random in the timing of your laps is critical. As one client says, “I do it every time I get out of my chair, for whatever reason."
When you conduct laps, you don't know what you're going to find. You might know what you're looking for, but the reality of on track or off-track behaviour is unpredictable. This contributes to the spontaneity of your reaction to what you notice.