Berger Leadership Blog

Jul 03, 2015

How to help employees be awesome

IStock_000017088920LargeYou may or may not say the word “awesome” very often out loud – but I hope you think your employees are awesome. I certainly think my team is awesome. But it turns out that saying it out loud – telling your team that you believe in them and think they are awesome – can make them do even more awesome work.

Harvard Business Review recently ran an article from leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. They found that managers who consistently rated their employees more positively than others – what they called “positive-rating managers” – were rewarded by employees with higher engagement. Employees with positive-rating managers average in the 60th percentile of engagement scores, while those who worked for negative-rating managers scored around the 47th percentile. They even found that other employees viewed the employees under negative-rating managers as being less effective.

“This is a particularly alarming possibility when you consider the seemingly reasonable motives of those who gave consistently lower ratings,” Zenger and Folkman wrote. “We frequently heard them say something like, ‘I want my people to get the message that I have high expectations.’ Those who gave high marks to their people also had high expectations, but they were more focused on sending the message that they had confidence in their people. They truly felt that they had selected the best people for those positions, and they expected them to succeed.”

How we act and what we say as leaders makes a difference. It’s good to remember that high expectations are better communicated through positive reinforcement rather than negative feedback.