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4 Behaviors Leaders Often Reward, but Shouldn’t

Posted by Louellen Essex on October 2, 2015 in Performance Management, Team Development

Are you mindful of what you are reinforcing when you reward staff behavior? Are you sure it is really what you want to reinforce? Remember this important principle: People tend to do more of the behaviors for which they are rewarded. Don’t find yourself inadvertently incenting your staff to utilize the following problematic behaviors.

1. Busy Work
It might look impressive when staff members work long hours, rarely taking breaks, seemingly busy all the time. Be careful about assuming all of that time is spent productively. It could be a sign of disorganization, causing tasks to take longer than they should. It could suggest some of the work being done isn’t really necessary. Or, it could indicate poor time management skills. While some staff may flaunt their extra hours on the job, avoid reinforcing a behavior that may not result in productivity.

What to Reward Instead: Smart Work.
Acknowledge good work habits that lead to desired outcomes. Your best performers might be those that work fewer hours, but with greater output and stellar efficiency.

2. Mindless Conformity
While following the rules may be a good thing most of the time, too much toeing the line could lead to stagnation. When top performers are profiled, they are often characterized as individuals who find new ways of doing things. They may question the status quo or even cut a corner now and again. A little rebellion can be a good thing.

What to Reward Instead: A Questioning Mind
Recognize that those who often ask “Why” work is done in a certain way are those who are thinking outside of the box, looking for new approaches. They are rarely satisfied.

3. Needless Complication
At first blush, it may seem remarkable when someone develops a complex roadmap, flow chart, or diagram to describe a concept. A verbal explanation may go into great detail, with much depth and complexity, making the speaker sound highly knowledgeable. However, Is all of this complication really needed to forward an idea or get a point across? Assess if the complexity is contributing to greater understanding or confusing the issue at hand.
What to Reward Instead: Simplification
When an idea can be presented in a simple format, others can grasp it more quickly and implement it more readily. Simplifying is a skill of great value.

4. High-pitched Demands
You’ve heard the adage that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Beware of paying more attention to those who more fervently voice their concerns than do others. Some people have learned they can get more attention and more of what they want by simply being loud and visible. While the concerns they have could be valid, be careful about reinforcing their communication style by immediately addressing their issues. Coach them to express themselves in a more measured, professional manner.
What to Reward Instead: Quietly Effective People
Sometimes those who diligently do their work every day without making a fuss get overlooked. Keep your eye on those who are not making much noise and be sure they get their fair share of praise and recognition.

Pay close attention to what you are really reinforcing. Make sure you align the rewards you give with the behavior you really want.

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In these times of rapid change, leaders can never stop learning.”

Dr. Louellen Essex