Skaer-Tactics: Behavior Modification Is Needed for Some (or is it Many?)

November 29, 2007

I am a fan of Rick Johnson, founder of CEO Strategist and a veteran of the wholesale distribution industry. He recently sent me an e-mail, discussing the topic of behavior and its importance. It’s worth repeating here.

Johnson zeroed in on behavior modification, which involves the application of knowledge from various disciplines and theories for the purpose of changing behaviors. As Johnson notes, “It involves a coaching process with the objective of making the individual an effective leader rather than just a better employee.”

In his estimation, two basic requirements for success include:

• Positive reinforcement - Definition: Reinforcing or recognizing a desirable behavior by acknowledging the behavior.

“This is behavior that is expected from the employee,” says Johnson. “Positive reinforcement will stabilize performance activity and support continued behavior that meets expectations or exceeds it. This will increase the frequency of that behavior, as well as increase the employee’s commitment and positive attitude.”

• Constructive feedback - Definition: Information communicated from the manager of the employee regarding a behavior or task that does not meet performance standards and needs improvement.

“How this is communicated is critical,” says Johnson. “It is not constructive criticism. Criticizing an employee serves no purpose. Look for the good first and then explain the better performance desired.”

I can’t agree more when Johnson says it’s all in the delivery. In fact, I have to pass along his feedback guidelines:

• Never interrogate. “It just isn’t necessary to ask a lot of questions during a feedback session.” • Trust is essential for candor and constructive feedback. “If you haven’t gained their trust, you will not be effective.”

• Maintain a conversational non-sales approach.

• Keep the feedback goal oriented. “You can keep feedback goal-oriented by indicating specifically what can be done to improve the behavior,” says Johnson. “If you tell an employee they are doing something wrong, then you need to help them come up with a solution to the problem or a way to change the behavior.”

You have to like Johnson’s approach and suggestions. We can all learn from such advice. After all, when providing feedback to an employee, it is imperative, as he says, “that you discuss the situation, their behavior, and the impact the behavior is having in a broad sense.”

If you disagree with any of the above, post your reasons and commentary here accordingly. I (plus more than a few readers of this blog) definitely want to hear from you.

Of course, it’s OK to agree with all of the above and still leave/post a comment accordingly.