Several years ago a company that I was working with did a study that compared their top-performing managers (top 10%) with their bottom performing managers (bottom 25%). They were looking to see if there were any qualities that either of these groups had that led to increased or decreased performance. One of the differentiating qualities that the top performing managers exhibited was the amount of positive feedback they gave. These top-performing managers gave an average of 4 positive feedbacks to every one constructive feedback.
Positive feedback is so powerful and yet so rare. People crave it and when they receive it, it can change their performance and their life.
You may have heard the story of the Babemba tribe in South Afirca and the way they treat people who step out of line. Instead of treating the person with judgment and punishment, the tribe treats the offender with love and appreciation.
If a member of the Babemba acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he or she is placed at the center of the village, alone. All work ceases, and the entire tribe gathers in a large circle around the violator. Then each person in the tribe, regardless of age, speaks to the accused, one at a time, recalling all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his or her lifetime.
Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy is recounted. All the individual’s positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. No one is permitted to fabricate, exaggerate or be facetious about the accomplishments or the positive aspects of the person. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days and does not end until everyone is drained of every positive comment he or she can state about the person in question.
At the end, the circle is broken and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe with joyful celebration.
Earlier this evening I was watching my 15 year-old daughter practice soccer. I have never played soccer, but in the past I have several Olympic soccer players with their mental preparation, so I know a little bit about the game. As I watched my daughter practice I was looking for any mistakes she might be making so that I could give her my (unsolicited) advice in the car on the way home from practice. And then suddenly, I realized I was looking for the wrong thing. Mistakes! I shifted my focus to looking for what she was doing right! And guess what? I found plenty of things she was doing right. We talked about those on the way home and we both really enjoyed ourselves.
Whether you’re leading a team in a business or a family, we need to remind ourselves to LOOK for people doing things right and let them know what they are doing right. You will only see what you are looking for.
The Bambemba tribe rarely has someone step out of line because they are always noticing the great things that people are doing and communicating those things to them.
Is your feedback at the 4 to 1 level? If not, what could you do to get it there? For your team members, your spouse, your children, your family members and your friends? It all starts by making an effort to look for the great things people do.