Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Is Praise a Waste of Time?

In the last few days I’ve run across some readings that connect in an unusual way.

In Management Rewired, author Charles S. Jacobs makes the case that feedback, criticism, praise and attaboys are a waste of a manager’s time. He writes that new neuroscience research shows that emotions are such a strong force in determining how we think and make decisions that, in essence, we’re going to think what we’re going to think and all the stroking isn’t really going to change our minds. He says we use logic only to back up the emotions (I’ve been saying this about marketing for 10 years).

Jacobs encourages employers to let employees set their own objectives, critique their own performances, and develop their own improvement strategies.

We’ve heard some of this before, with self-directed work teams, but Jacobs pumps in some research that shows that engaging tasks (more likely if the employee has developed them) stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain. This hormone acts as a neurotransmitter that can deliver the same type of “high” we get from food or nicotine.

OK, so we’re getting high on the job. Not necessarily a bad thing, because it’s due to the job.

The connection I made was to an article in the current issue of Success magazine. A piece about the Virgin Airlines billionaire Richard Branson quoted him as saying, “The hardest taskmaster is a person’s own conscience, so the more responsibility you give them the harder they will work for you.”

Do you see the connection I did? If you let someone determine their future, instead of telling them what to do, they are more likely to take a personal stake in the job and they’ll be more responsible for the results.

Let’s take it to The Perfect Workday level: if you will take control of your destiny instead of letting someone else drive the bus you are more likely to get where you want to go.

Tomorrow let’s talk about those workplace sluggoes who don’t seem to have consciences.

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