‘Motivation’ Articles

Leveraging the 4:1 Ratio—In Sports and in Business

Leveraging the 4:1 Ration in sports and businessIt’s built into what we do with our clients, in understanding and applying the science of behavior.  While it may not seem revolutionary, correctly applying the 4:1 Ratio matters and does affect your outcome.

By definition, the 4:1 Ratio is four positives to one negative (or constructive).  What many don’t understand is that in order to shape the behavior you want, you must provide enough positive reinforcement for that behavior to become consistent. This is a great tool to use in business, sports, and even at home. 

Here are two great examples: Business and Sports.

If you want behavior to change, leverage the 4:1.

Don’t Blame Employees for Lack of Effort—Managers Hold the Key

keyIt’s generally agreed that persuading employees to give more than required can make or break a company. Yet many leaders struggle to get that discretionary effort. The 2013 State of the American Workplace Report found that only 70 percent of employees report giving their all at work, and my experience indicates the number is closer to 60 percent.

The good news: Managers have the power to earn discretionary effort. The not-so-good news: Managers often inadvertently discourage over-and-above performance by punishing desired behavior and limiting opportunities for employee contributions.

To break negative patterns and elicit lasting, positive change, I recommend these steps:

  • Take note of your interactions with employees. Think about how you respond to suggestions and input, and whether you recognize and reinforce doing more than is required.
  • Identify what individuals find reinforcing. What reinforces one may punish another (think public praise). Be sure you understand and apply the right reinforcers for each individual.
  • Establish yourself as a reinforcer. Positive reinforcement is contagious. If you recognize the good work of others, the good performance of your employees will grow exponentially.
  • Go out of your way to reinforce good work. I can’t say this enough. When you see people perform well, reinforce their behavior. For example, ask them how they accomplished something.

So instead of blaming employees for not doing their best, remember discretionary behavior always comes from what you say and do. If you focus on positively reinforcing behaviors that fit the mission, vision and values of your organization, you’re sure to become a more effective manager and gain more discretionary effort.

Are managers in your company earning discretionary effort? Please share your experience and insights in the comments section below.


5 Fool-Proof Ways to Set and Accomplish Productive Goals

Goal SettingGoal setting is a common practice in organizations and can lead to improved performance and productivity. But many companies struggle to properly execute the goal setting process. Check out our SlideShare for 5 tips to help you set and achieve goals.

Want Discretionary Effort? 10 Things to Avoid in the New Year

Discretionary EffortIt’s that time of year when we are inundated with what we should do to start the new year off right. I would be remiss if I didn’t offer advice of my own; the only difference is these are things we should avoid all year round and are essential if you want to earn discretionary effort.

Read entire post at Talent Management Magazine.

More on Discretionary Effort…

4 Tips for Avoiding Year-End Mistakes

Year-end mistakesWith the frenzy of the Holidays upon us the end of the year is naturally a busy time, causing added stress and interruptions to our normal routines and schedules. At the office, managing time, work and people becomes increasingly more difficult as priorities compete for your attention, leaving the potential for errors a greater possibility.

Read my tips for effectively managing your work responsibilities this season at Talent Management Magazine.

Fast Company article on “Stack Ranking”

Motivating EmployeesIt’s hard to believe but Stack Ranking has found its way back into corporations as a means for motivating employees. What will it take for leaders to understand that this practice doesn’t work and in fact produces the opposite effect of what was intended?

I tackle this topic and offer tips for what organizations should do in this latest article in Fast Company: The Evils of ‘Stack Ranking’ and What Companies Should do Instead.

I encourage you to not only read it but share it with others and engage in a discussion about what truly motivates employees to give their best.


Contingent Reinforcement, Where?

Who would have thought in our lifetime there would be contingent reinforcement in Russia?

Apparently you can perform squats on an interactive machine and earn free subway rides. Now that’s a real win/win for the rider!


A Better Way for HP to Boost Performance

Photograph by Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg

Photograph by Jacob Kepler/Bloomberg

Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Meg Whitman has rekindled the debate over whether to telecommute with a memo urging employees to show up at the office more often. She wrote that “HP needs all hands on deck” to foster engagement and collaboration during its turnaround.

Whitman joins Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer in blaming telecommuting for all-too-common issues, such as silo mentality and mediocre effort, which hobble business performance.

This approach is misguided and flies in the face of the laws of human behavior. What’s more, it’s likely to be counterproductive.

Read my entire post at Bloomberg Business Week.

See also Yahoo: Wrong Problem Wrong Solution.

Shaping Performance Appraisals, One Step at a Time

The last performance appraisal blog that I wrote caused quite a stir. While I am pleased that people actually read it and took the time to respond, the responses caused me to rethink what I wrote. While I don’t apologize for writing that performance appraisals need to be eliminated, I do apologize for what I didn’t say. The appraisal process and all of the emotions surrounding it are too complicated and varied for me to adequately address in 600 to 1,000 words. I hope you will cut me some slack as I just have not perfected my writing skill to that level.

Read entire post at Talent Management Magazine.

Building Reinforcement into Your Work

Managers can’t be everywhere all the time. So an important part of providing positive reinforcement to keep desired behaviors going is to build it into the work. This is referred to as natural reinforcement—the non-mediated, immediate things that strengthen behavior.

Watch as ADI vice president, Ken Wagner discusses how to build critical work habits from sources other than your manager and how customers, peers and the work itself can play a role. Learn why an important part of a manager’s job is to notice small, incremental improvements and help people see the impact they have on the people and the work around them.