How are you preventing the changes you want by recognizing and reinforcing the wrong behavior?
We are just a couple months into a new year. This means organizations are working through the implementation of new strategic plans, and we are working toward new life goals.
What we often forget to address as part of change are the recognition and reward systems that surround our day-to-day behavior, and how those need to adjust with our new goals and plans.
One of my favorite things I get to do is work with teens. Before we engage in coaching, I ask the parents and the teen what their intentions for our time together are and what outcomes they’d like to see, or what will be different if we are successful in our engagement. I had one set of parents tell me they’d like to see their teen be less hard on themselves and have more fun.
As the teen and I got into our visits, it became more and more clear that the parents had a habit of being pretty hard on themselves and that even though they wanted their teen to go easier on themselves when they lost a game or didn’t get an A, they tended to ask questions and make statements that made the teen feel like maybe they didn’t try hard enough which, in turn, made the teen get down on themselves. This was a pattern we were able to bring to light and have a positive conversation about what changes could be made.
We discussed the importance of talking ahead of time about what preparation looks like so everyone was on the same page and felt confident that the effort put in was enough, regardless of the outcome. We talked about positive reinforcement and a focus on lessons learned and how we move forward vs. a negative focus on the outcome that can’t be changed and is in the past. We had an interesting conversation about tradeoffs. Is it really OK to get out and have fun with friends and only get a B instead of staying in and studying to get an A?
These conversations forced us to face the inherent sacrifices related to what their new vision was, and how we all needed to change our behavior, specifically what we recognize and reward. The parents realized they needed to support this teen in having more fun, and to recognize and positively encourage time with friends. They needed to reward the teen for effort vs. outcome (the study time vs. the grade).
Think about this: Most people I know have made a goal this year of spending more quality time with their families. Yet they are being recognized and rewarded by their workplace, friends, and even their families because of what they accomplish (the to dos and activities that literally require them to be away). Could you say the same?
These same dynamics apply as we work to make changes inside our organizations.
We want to up level the quality of client we work with, yet we continue to recognize and reward our salespeople for any deal they bring into the organization.
We want to put a focus on developing our leaders and teams, yet we continue to praise people for getting tasks done vs. spending time in learning and on development.
We want to get things done right the first time, yet we continue to reward people for getting things done quickly even though the quick decisions cause frustration and require clean up.
We want to be more inclusive and collaborative, yet we reward quick decision making and moving quickly through to dos even though it leaves people left out and confused.
At The Restoration Project, our motto for the year is Calm + Confident. We are doing less with a focus to do everything at a higher level of quality and with a deeper level of connection. We lived last year how taking on too much negatively impacts the quality of our life and our work.
This is true for most people, but especially true for the unique way we interact with clients and the opportunities and issues we get to support and work through. We can add way more value when we are calm and confident, and when we have the time and space to go deeper.
This means that each of us individually on the team has to commit to saying no or not right now. For me, this is extremely challenging. I see all the ways we could expand our reach and impact, and I want to do it now! Last year I personally lived out how taking on too much too fast can cause burnout and make even the work you feel called to do feel like a burden.
I don’t want to go back there, but my old patterns and limiting beliefs (if I don’t say yes, who will help them + if I make them wait they’ll go somewhere else + if we don’t do it now we will lose our opportunity, etc.) make it really hard for me to say no or not right now.
As we built our strategic plan this year, we spent a lot more time on the back end talking about what it means. Is it reasonable and realistic based on how we want to feel? (Calm + Confident) Is it going to enable higher quality connections? What do we need to stop doing? What will we recognize and reward each other for, or said another way, what inputs and actions will we recognize and reward that will get us the outcomes we hope to achieve?
Thinking about what you want isn’t enough. Make time to consider the patterns and habits related to what you recognize and reward to help you get further, faster. If you or your team could use help in this area, our team at The Restoration Project would love to support you!
Written by: Lindsay Leahy, Dream Builder at The Restoration Project
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