Infocusselling’s Blog

May 12, 2008


ENGAGEMENT:  The Power of Productivity – RECOGNITION

by Scott Seibert, Sales & Leadership Strategist

Tom Peters used the term “MBWA”.  It stands for Management By Walking Around.  His message was to always look for people doing things right, and then recognize their efforts and accomplishments.  Why have so many of the world’s management gurus stressed this simple tactic?  Because if done right, it will make you successful and filthy, stinking rich.

As we all know, finding people doing things wrong is quite easy.  We do this every day when reading the paper, watching a sporting event, interacting with our family and co-workers.  If we own or run a business, we seemingly have an endless supply of opportunities with our employees.  It allows us to show others that we know how things should be done and we do so in no uncertain terms.  It is exasperating to us that others won’t or don’t listen and follow our orders every time they do something.  It is actually our fault.

What Peters preaches in his book, In Search of Excellence, and every book he has written since, is to religiously strive to find our people not only doing things right, but making the effort.  We may think that they are just doing what we are paying them to do.  But if you articulate a simple “thank you” you will see a substantial improvement of effort and a consistent improvement in the level of accomplishments.

One of the Dale Carnegie principles is, “Be specific in your praise like you are specific in your criticism.”  That translates into making sure we don’t just say “Good job” but tell our people what makes up the good job.  If we do so every time we see desired actions we will get a steady stream of desired actions.  The more we explain what those actions are and then allot praise when they happen, the more desired behavior we will get.  It is a characteristic of human nature that matches what is known as a “positive feedback system” in physics, biology, and chemistry, where an input generates a greater output which is fed immediately back to the input resulting in increasingly more output, ad infinitum.

Stephen Covey uses the term “making deposits in people’s emotional bank account”.  His treatise is that the ratio of praise to criticism should be at least 10:1.  He makes an analogy of a regular bank.  If we try to make withdrawals of our funds without first making deposits, we will be arrested and do time in prison.  The same happens at work, just without jail. The reaction to criticism without praise ranges from antagonism to just being numb to the continual negative comments.  The real impact of criticism is manifested only if there is a strong positive emotional attachment to the manager or leader.  Then when the negative criticism happens, there is a true desire to correct and eliminate the undesired actions.  The only thing worse than continued criticism is ignoring someone all together.

The Challey Group uses a term they call “Brown Stamping”.  It comes when there is no distinct or even occasional praise and criticism when things don’t go as expected.  This happened to me.  In my un-enlightened years I had a manager of a small operation have consistently good results over a number of years.  That was what I grew to expect of him and there was little praise for that accomplishment.  His reaction over time was resentment.  He continued to do the job that was asked but he found ways to embezzle thousands of dollars.  He actually felt he was deserving of that money as compensation for the absence of recognition on my part.  From that time forward, I routinely found reasons monthly to congratulate those deserving of that recognition.  I actually got even better results when I spoke to one of their support staff and asked them to pass around the recognition for a job well done and the reasons why.

Marcus Buckingham in every one of his books stresses the need to focus on a person’s strengths and then together, find how to best utilize those strengths.  This can easily be done by discussing with that employee, child, co-worker, or even in the interview process, what comes easily to them and exactly how they have successfully accomplished things that have been of importance to them.  In a work environment you may end up rearranging responsibilities and tasks, but if done correctly, engagement and productivity will take off like a rocket.

How can you make this all happen?  The formula is simple.  It is not easy, just simple.

  • First, make a conscious decision to practice MBWA to find people doing things right.
  • Second, be specific in your praise.
  • Third, make continual deposits in your people’s emotional bank account. Be individualistic in the praise, either in private or in the public setting.  I suggest you omit any trite “rah-rah” practices.
  • Fourth, have measurable objectives that are known by your entire workforce.
  • Fifth, give praise when and if deserved.  Be liberal in this regard.

Pretty simple, but extremely effective.

I have a personal example.  Our company had experienced way too many injuries.  It was negatively affecting the cost of running the business, much less the hit to morale and customer service.  We started a Safety Newsletter.  We wanted to find best practices from our 170 locations that could be spread to all operations.  I got our support staff involved and asked them to report on any idea that worked to make our environment a safer place to work.  We publicly recognized those that contributed ideas (no money, just recognition).  When others saw the recognition given to their peers, dozens of others creatively devised ways to make their days safer.  The result was a tremendous improvement in both safety and engagement.  We were able to use the campaign as a marketing tool getting our customers involved for their businesses.  And we saved over $1,000,000 in the first year.

It really works.  If you’d like to have a little help making something like this happen for you, give us a call.

Scott Seibert is a Sales and Leadership Strategist with ACTUM Group, where he specializes in increasing profit by improving team focus and interaction. For more information on Scott, click here


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