If you do nothing else as a manager, learn to appreciate your people. It’s simple and effective. If you want to excel at managing performance, tell your people what they’re doing right.

In reading Dr. Hallowell’s book Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best from Your People (Harvard Business Press, 2011), his fifth step in the Cycle of Excellence is about rewards and recognition.

To recap, the author, a psychiatrist and behavior expert, draws on brain science, performance research and his own experience to present a Cycle of Excellence process for getting the best from your people:

  1. Select: Put the right people in the right job, and give them responsibilities that “light up” their brains.
  2. Connect: Strengthen interpersonal bonds among team members.
  3. Play: Help people unleash their imaginations at work.
  4. Grapple and Grow: When the pressure’s on, enable employees to achieve mastery of their work.
  5. Shine: Use the right rewards to promote loyalty and stoke your people’s desire to excel.

In the work I do coaching managers, I rarely find people give out too much appreciation. Most organizations and managers focus on deficits and gaps, and encourage learning from mistakes.

Not enough attention is paid to recognizing strengths, talents, and attitudes. Yet research shows most people learn better from positive reinforcement of success than a focus on improving weaknesses.

Step 5: Shine

Every employee should feel recognized and valued for what he or she does. Recognition should not be reserved solely for a group’s stars.

People learn from mistakes, and they grow even more when their successes are noticed and praised. Letting them know that you appreciate victories large and small will motivate them and secure their loyalty.

When a person is underperforming, consider that lack of recognition may be a cause. An employee usually won’t come right out and tell you that he/she feels undervalued, so you must look for the subtle signs. In addition:

  • Be on the lookout for moments when you can catch someone doing something right. It doesn’t have to be unusual or spectacular. Don’t withhold compliments.
  • Be generous with praise. People will pick up on your use of praise and start to perform for themselves and each other.
  • Recognize attitudes, as well as achievements. Optimism and a growth mindset are two attitudes you can single out and encourage. Look for others.

When you’re in sync with your people, you create positive energy and opportunities for peak performance. Working together can be one of life’s greatest joys—and it’s what we’re wired to do.

Maintaining Excellence in Uncertain Times

Nothing is as difficult as managing performance in uncertain times. With the rapidly changing competitive environment and new technologies, it’s hard to keep up.

Managing people well is even more challenging when you’re constantly putting out fires. How are you supposed to bring out the best in your people when no one has a clue as to what will happen tomorrow?

Most managers draw upon their core values and lessons learned along the way. To ensure success, embrace a plan like the Hallowell Cycle of Excellence. It can help you manage people when they’re faltering. Perhaps one of the five steps is going unfulfilled. An employee may not be in the right job or may not be sufficiently challenged.

A plan is a mooring to use during times of crisis and chaos—a strategy for redirecting energies in the right direction. It can be used to correct course. You can’t sacrifice performance in the name of speed, cost cutting, efficiency, and what can be mislabeled as necessity. When you ignore connections, deep thought disappears in favor of decisions based on fear.

These five areas of focus can help you avoid fear-based management practices, which have the potential to disable you. Use it to identify problem areas and decide on a plan of action. In this way you and your employee can creatively manage for growth not just survival.

I’ve learned from my clients just how hard it is to bring out the best in people. It’s the reason why so many smart managers are using an executive coach.

What do you think about this? What’s been your own experience managing performance? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.