The Journal Gazette
Friday, October 28, 2016 10:23 am

Performance principles: Reinforce the positives

Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette

Mackenzie Kyle likes to use a bit of psychology to push for better performance.

If you're used to correcting children who get out of line or commit errors in judgment, punishment is often the "go-to solution for undesirable behavior," according to Kyle.

He's the author of "The Performance Principle: A Practical Guide to Understanding Motivation in the Modern Workplace," which was published in June.

In the workplace, though, that approach doesn't always work. Even when performance needs improving, the goal is to focus on responses that might motivate.

"Simply expecting that people will do what they should do," Kyle said, often doesn't match workplace realities.

"We as managers, we make assumptions about what we believe people will find motivating," Kyle said in a telephone interview earlier this month.

That means you can't assume the paycheck is the best stimulus.

For employees who feel they aren't making enough money to live, money can be "a very big motivator," Kyle said.

But what about the ones who are financially comfortable?

"Money is a satisfier and not a motivator," he said.

Other options, he suggests, include seeking employee input or more frequent praise when their work merits it.

But even with praise, managers have to be cautious. While one employee may crave public praise so peers can take notice, others may shun that spotlight.

"They don’t feel comfortable with it," Kyle said. "They want feedback, but it has to be one-on-one. Other people find it motivating to be recognized in front of a large group."

"Performance Principle" is Kyle's second project management book. It's designed to help business leaders boost morale, find innovative techniques to influence employee behavior and increase profitability.

Punishment, Kyle contends, is often overused and ends up having very little effect.

Kyle, a regional managing partner for MNP, a consulting and accounting firm, has worked with businesses in the U.S., Canada, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. He is also author of "Making It Happen: A Non-technical Guide to Project Management," published in 1998.

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