REINFORCE THE GOOD
  • Recognizing and supporting the positive values demonstrated in other people’s actions
  • Fostering an environment that encourages GuideMarks and other healthy behaviors
  • Acknowledging, with specificity, the good work of others
COMMENTARY:
I am a fairly new father. Nine months of hands-on experience to be precise. One thing we were told a lot by other parents when we were pregnant was that parenting is hard. Newsflash!  This was usually followed up with some crazy story of how their kids almost died from peanuts or how their kid broke a priceless family heirloom.  These "encouraging" stories were apparently shared to remind us of how important it is to "raise our kids right."  I'm not sure how raising our kids right will protect them from peanut allergies but the point is that the stories we were told were to emphasize, at least to the storytellers, how hard parenting is. All of which had the opposite effect on me. I was mainly concerned of keeping my baby alive. I hadn't even processed how to raise her to know right and wrong, make important life decisions and understand math. Needless to say, I was not encouraged by these well-intentioned people we call friends and family.
 
In the professional world, I have given and received a lot of feedback in my various roles over the years. Regardless of one's title, giving someone intentional feedback can be the most rewarding and challenging part of the job. Why? Because giving feedback is personal. For example, you may not be telling someone that they, as a human being, are sub-par, but the work they did was in fact sub-par. More than likely they will take it personally. It's natural - they put a piece of themselves into the work  and the results were not good, and so in a very real way it feels like they are not good. Does this mean we should tip-toe around giving feedback because it may hurt someone's feelings?  Absolutely not. It means that we need to be intentional with our feedback. It means "fostering an environment that encourages" healthy feedback as the norm and not the exception. We want to encourage people to become better individuals. The quality of work we do isn't always separate from who we are as people. So, when we encourage one another by Reinforcing the Good and giving timely feedback on actions that can be improved, we are allowing people to improve themselves. What is pretty neat about this is that this process can be accomplished together.   
 
We haven't had much experience yet with giving feedback to our baby yet.  She doesn't quite listen to me when I tell her why she can't put her hand in the dog's mouth. But she does observe what I do.  It's both amazing and surreal.  One afternoon we were making her food and we turned on the blender. She started screaming at it because it was loud.  It was hilarious. Hit me up and I'll show you the video.  As she was screaming, we were laughing, and she saw us laugh and then she screamed some more. Now she screams at everything that makes a noise and then looks up at us with a goofy grin - like she is staring at us for affirmation. We reinforced that behavior.  I know I'm a new dad, but I do know the concept that kids mimic what we do more than what we tell them to do. However, I figured I had a least another 3 months before that happened.  Wrong again.  She is already following our example.    
 
I am learning that it is in everyday moments that Reinforcing the Good needs to happen. Sometimes events unfold unexpectedly that you need to seize on to tell someone that they are doing a great job. Other times you need to be very intentional and look for specific actions that need to be reinforced. On the same proverbial coin, it is necessary to bring to light actions that need to be corrected and to clearly explain why they need to be corrected.
 
Once I had a manager that tell me that being a parent makes him be a better leader. He wasn't tooting his own horn. He is a very good leader. That conversation reminded me of a scene from the movie “We Were Soldiers”. Col. Hal Moore was visiting one of his young sergeants who just became a father: "Colonel, may I ask you a question?”  - “Sure”.  – “What do you think about being a soldier and a father?” – “I hope that being good at the one makes me better at the other." I don't think we need to "parent" our co-workers, friends and family members. That probably would come across as condescending. However, I see a strong correlation between an engaged parent and engaged leader (workforce, military, rock band, etc.). I believe that leading happens all day, every day and everywhere. Reinforcing the Good through feedback is not just for leaders. And I believe that leading isn't just for those with a title that demands leadership. Just like being a good father hopefully makes me be better at being a leader, I believe that Reinforcing the Good with my co-workers, family and friends can make me better at raising my baby girl to be a strong, loving and compassionate woman.  
 
A short disclaimer: No, I don't believe Reinforcing the Good is only done by people with kids. Nor do I think that being a great leader automatically means you nail being a parent. I think we can all list examples of the opposite in both cases. I do see a strong correlation between the two and I think it is worth noting that genuine care for the other person(s) is key. You may not like them (this includes your kids or co-workers) in certain times but the common thread is you care for their betterment as a person.  
 
Key Words and Phrases
Encourage a response; Support; Reward an action; Strengthen or increase; Instruct; Boost or shore up; Affirm and validate; Foster and sustain; Bolster or amplify; Emphasize or stress
 
Opposite Terms
Tear down; Weaken; Ignore; Undermine
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