Catch Them Doing Something Right

by DP Sabharwal
Everybody yearns for recognition, more so because most of the time, they are hearing words of negation and criticism. Small and thoughtful gestures like noticing your subordinate doing some good work and compliment him then and there, can do wonders.
Long back I had seen a cartoon which is still vividly imprinted on my mind. It was concerning Denise the Menace. Sitting in a corner, with a tear in his eye, he mused: "how come I do not have a special place to sit when I do something NICE to get noticed."

We all yearn for recognition and a pat on the back for good work done. Everyone in particular the sub-ordinates, wants an occasional praise and words of appreciation, in fact more so because most of the time, they are hearing words of negation and criticism such as do not do it this way, who asked you to do that, why have you spoiled the work, you should have been wise enough not to do so etc etc. Under such circumstances it is all the more necessary to look for the moment when your employee (sub-ordinate) does some good work, notice it and then compliment him then and there. Such small and thoughtful gestures can do wonders.

Act Differently

I was at the residence of my boss to discuss some urgent plans when his sixteen years old son came and asked in a surly tone, "Can I take the car for half an hour?"

The manner in which he interrupted us without saying ‘excuse me' or words to that effect was no doubt bad. Equally more annoying was his speech, for, he neither added ‘dad' nor ‘please' in his sentence. I was sure Boss would pull him up for those serious lapses in his behavior. To my astonishment he did nothing of that sort. Instead, in a very cool and composed voice he said, "Thanks for asking son. I appreciate when you seek permission. Some kids just take it and that leads to problems. Yes, you can take the car."

As he was leaving, the Boss called him back and added, "You are a good boy, but I want you to be better. So please keep in mind two things for future: Firstly never interrupt abruptly. Secondly when you ask something, be courteous and always add the word please to your sentence." The son's reaction was positive and graceful as he said, "Thank you dad, thanks for the car and the advice."

I have pondered over the scene ever since. Someone else in Boss's place could have acted differently. He would have rebuked the son for interruption, for not being polite and things like that. And I am sure, whatever the advice that would have followed, would not have been accepted by the teenager. The Boss's method of noticing the good act and acknowledging the same proved to be really effective.

Trust Them

All human beings are intelligent and sub-ordinates are human beings. Therefore, they too are intelligent. This fact somehow we tend to forget and as a result we feel they can't think of great things. We never trust them to be original and innovative. As a result we hardly allow them to follow their gut feeling. Left to their own judgment, they are bound to behave sensibly. They also know what is good for them and most of them, sooner or later will choose it. The problem is: most of the seniors do not believe that they will.

In a big factory most of the workers were obese and had a tendency to put on weight that affected their work since it involved bending and things like that. The normal talks about maintaining good health had no effect. As a part of interesting study a special cafeteria was set up and was divided in to two halves. In one half was kept the so called junk food like pizza. hot dogs, candies, ice-cream etc. The other half had equally attractive items of nutritious food. The choice was given to them to eat whatever they like and that too without any payment. However, they were told before hand, the advantages of good and nutritious food. No doubt there was virtual stampede in the junk food section of the cafeteria on the first day. But that was not the case on subsequent days. In fact after few days, there was an orderly but long queue in front of the nourishing food section of the cafeteria.

The experiment proved it clearly that everyone, irrespective of rank and position, had the common-sense and the brains to find out what was best for them. All they required was a trust from the management.

Listen to them

Everyone wears a sign: ‘I want to be important now.' It is unfortunate that we hardly ever read the sign. Not only that, more often than not, we assign a different and wrong meaning to their acts. However, we must understand that at times, sub-ordinates do wrong things or act irresponsibly just to get our attention. Thus we should listen to them whenever they try to attract our attention, whatever be their means and methods.

On such occasions, do not blow at the sub-ordinate because the harder you blow, the more he is likely to hang-on to his bad behavior. We must preserve our cool and should not be unduly harsh on them because as Longfellow has rightly said, "A torn jacket is soon mended, but harsh words bruise the heart."

Praise them in Their Presence

Have you ever observed the behavior of grown-ups with regard to their children? Whatever wrong things a child might do but the parents always tell all the good habits and traits in front of others, be it friends, neighbours or relatives. In fact we do not like others to carry the impression that our children are naughty, ill-behaved, irresponsible and disobedient. What an irony! We are bothered about others as to what they will think of the child, but we are not bothered about our own child's reaction. We talk of the good points in front of the others but never in front of the children!

We carry the same behavior to our offices. How sad! Think about it seriously. If you want positive results and if you want your sub-ordinates and colleagues to improve, the way out is simple: Let them hear or over-hear the nice things you say about them to others. And more importantly tell them occasionally, how good they are. And above all catch them doing something right... and if you can do that quite often, so much better.
Wg Cdr DP Sabharwal (Retd) is a post-graduate in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked in the Indian Air Force for 25 years on fighter (Hunter, MiG-21, MiG-29) aircraft and helicopters (Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8). He sought voluntary retirement in 1995 to pursue a career in teaching and writing.
A Fellow of Institution of Engineers and the Aeronautical Society of India, Sabharwal is visiting professor at engineering and MBA institutes and a Corporate Trainer on behavioral skills. Author of 22 books including 'A Finer You' a book on personal grooming, manners and etiquettes; he is settled in Bangalore (India) and can be contacted at aerosaby@gmail.com