How to Make Better Leadership Decisions Than GM, VA or Xerox

By understanding the underlying behaviors involved in achieving results, good or bad, leaders and managers then can determine how to effectively use positive reinforcement for the behaviors involved in improving performance. Here are three ways to achieve that goal:

1. Reinforce the right behaviors. If you think of positive reinforcement as an attaboy, pat on the back or raise, you will devise systems that actually have the opposite impact. Instead, positively reinforce employees who speak up when there is a problem or those who offer solutions that save time and money. Behaviors should always reflect the mission, vision and values of the organization.

“Finding behaviors that add value for every organizational result is time-consuming, but worth the effort.”

Finding behaviors that add value for every organizational result is time-consuming, but worth the effort. Many companies in the paper industry paid operators by production. When faster machines came on the scene, rates of production doubled and in some cases tripled, and compensation increases doubled and tripled when the operators did nothing different. Not a good way to spend money.

2. Train supervisors and executives to give positive reinforcement. If managers and leaders don’t care about small individual accomplishments, individuals won’t care either. Positive reinforcement ensures that the right results will be achieved and will likely be better than you expected or needed.

3. Put in the time needed and be patient. Make change easy by initially reinforcing the smallest improvement. This increases the frequency of reinforcement, which increases behavior, which increases the results. And it raises the probability that all people will receive some positive reinforcement, which dilutes, if not eliminates, resistance to change and to management requests and requirements..

Managing “to” results may look like a quick path to success, but it will never produce a viable organization. Managers will simply do whatever is necessary, including altering numbers, to boost results. But those companies that manage the behavior that leads to results will get the very results they need.