Ouch! Thank you!

electronic collarThe delivery truck pulled to a stop in front of the two mountain cabins. The driver’s territory included serene meadows, thick forests, and mountain vistas.

Mountain customers’ homes are typically spread out, far from each other. These two adjacent homes shared a driveway with their respective properties extending into the valley beyond. They were very good customers so the driver made deliveries two or three times a week.

Both customers have big dogs that hung out in their yards. The dogs are always excited to see the driver. Why? He gave them doggie treats as he walked up to set the packages on their owners’ porches.

One of the dogs, a healthy 150 pounds of love, has a tendency to wander. His owner installed an electronic, invisible fence around their yard and put a battery-powered collar on the dog. When the dog strayed too close to the invisible fence, the collar first gave an audible warning. If the dog continued towards the fence line, the collar gave the dog a small shock.

Rather than wait for the driver to walk over and give it a treat, this big dog would walk right through the electric fence line. The puppy just couldn’t wait! As it crossed the invisible fence line, the shock would make the dog whine and shake a moment – then it would continue to the driver, tail wagging, for his treat. The dog would immediately head back home, across the invisible fence line – shock, whine, shake, and all.

The driver was amazed that the dog would go through that zap for a little treat – two or three times a week. It was, apparently, worth it to the dog!

Do team members in your department get enough praise? They’re probably doing good work. They’re applying their skills towards the accomplishment of team goals. Their efforts and results deserve recognition.

A 2012 Stepstone survey in Europe revealed that 74% of employees rarely or never receive praise from their managers.

These employees probably understand the dog’s decision. That little zap is worth getting some praise.

All of us want to know how we’re doing. The absence of feedback leaves us in a void, not knowing if we’re on the right track or if what we’re doing generates value.

Don’t leave employees in the dark. Provide feedback regularly, noting specifically what they’re doing that you value, that is on track – and specifically what they’re doing that is off track. Redirect them so they contribute steadily.

Set the context for their work – help them understand why you need them to do things a certain way. Help them understand the bigger picture – how their efforts align with others’ efforts to deliver promised products and services.

Don’t make them wish for the electric collar.

What do you think? How often do you receive praise from your boss for aligned effort and accomplishment? How do you ensure you express thanks for team members’ contributions?Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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  • Sharon E. Reed

    Context is so key to keeping others engaged and on target. Great post, Chris!

    • Thanks for reading and for your insights, Sharon! Clear context can help people make good decisions when the boss isn’t around –



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