Two simple words. Thank you. But let’s be honest. When is the last time we said it? Most of us fall short in appreciating the efforts of those around us.
Studies show that a simple “thank you” can make a huge difference in productivity. At B.F. Goodrich, for example, productivity increased 300% with the introduction of an inexpensive praise and recognition program. A recent well-designed study in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that appreciation from managers resulted in the same level of improvement in productivity, customer service, and turnover as handing out financial bonuses!
Communication in High-Performing Teams
High performing teams have different communication patterns than low performing teams, particularly regarding how they express appreciation.
In a recent study, 60 management work groups were observed from behind a one-way mirror while they crafted their annual plans. Each statement was coded. Then the company was evaluated based on three success indicators: profitability, customer satisfaction and 360° feedback evaluations.
Only 15 teams were categorized as “high performing.” The single most important factor in predicting their success was the ratio of positive to negative statements made in that meeting. This was more than twice as powerful as any other factor in predicting their performance!
Positive statements express appreciation, support, helpfulness, approval, or give compliments. Negative statements express criticism, disapproval, dissatisfaction, or disparagement. In the highest-performing teams, the ratio of positive to negative statements was 5.6 to 1. That means five times more positive statements were made than negative statements as they engaged in their work.
Communication in Top Management Teams
Positive-to-Negative Statement Ratio
In the lowest-performing teams, the ratio was .36 to 1. In other words, three times as many negative comments were made while the team members worked together. These low functioning team’s communication style was characterized by “self-absorbed” advocacy, narrow thinking, extreme negativity, and inflexibility.
Without intentional effort to focus on the positive, negative factors will receive much more attention – we are wired that way. Leaders have to solve problems and can’t ignore obstacles, but you should strive to counter the tendency toward the negative with an abundance of positivity. Otherwise, the negative will become the default.
Some managers believe “I don’t need to thank people for doing their jobs.” But thanking your employees is standard courtesy, and from a performance point of view, praise reinforces positive behaviors and makes it much more likely those behaviors will occur again in the future. So by all means, expect your employees to do their jobs, but praise them when they do–because that’s your job.