I talk about potty training when I am teaching people how to manage. The biggest thing that new managers don’t instinctively know is that their employees need feedback, lots of it, and with new managers, when we start talking feedback they automatically go negative. New managers think that being a manager means you tell people what to do and take them out when they don’t do it. That is part of the job for sure but I try to convince them that the other kind of feedback, the positive stuff, is way more important and way more effective. That is where the potty training comes in.
Most of the time I am teaching adults and inevitably all of them have either potty trained their kids or a dog. And bringing examples from life usually helps them understand the concept of feedback, even though talking about pee for ten minutes seems a little strange. When a puppy goes pee outside, as the owner and proud parent of that dog, you burst with enthusiastic praise because they have done exactly what you want them to. You give a puppy one little ounce of atta boy and their whole lower half wags like crazy. They LOVE you because you LOVE them. Same thing happens with kids. They hit the bowl and you go nuts and all they want to do is keep aiming straight. It is kind of magic, the positive feedback thing, it makes things happen because it makes whomever is getting the feedback feel good and it works with everything, not just going to the bathroom in the right place. And it works with everyone.
After lunch the other day, I came back to my desk to find the note in the picture below. There is only one person I work with who would leave that kind of a note for me, or anyone, and she happens to be in town this week and it made my day. She gets it, this positive stuff. We share this thing and talk about freaking people out with “good mornings” or “have a nice day” messages or simple hellos or smiley faces or saying hi to people in the elevator or smiling at strangers on the street. People think you are weird, they wonder what is up with you or what you want and really there isn’t anything you want. And you have to do it in your own way and it has to be real and knowing that giving most likely invoked a smile or a good feeling, even if you never know, makes doing it worthwhile. I think that is where the positive feedback starts and that is really my bigger point with the managers I teach. I think that if you know what it feels like to give and receive positivity, even just the little things, it makes it easier for you to give it back. Positivity starts to feel natural and just what you do and that, I think, is valuable to know.