A friend of mine was helping his kids get ready for bed the other day and one of the girls needed her Rapunzel length hair brushed out. It was a job that was normally done by the girl’s mother but for some reason that night, mom was busy and so he had to do it.
Not knowing what he was doing he went slow and carefully worked out the snarls. He didn’t feel particularly good about his work but his daughter didn’t complain once and went to bed without a peep.
He didn’t give it another thought until the next day when they started to get into their normal bedtime routines and mom grabbed the hairbrush. Daughter quickly cried foul, “No – I want daddy to do it, he does it better; he’s more careful.” And so Daddy – Beaming with pride – took the hairbrush and worked his magic once again. Daddy was clearly not as efficient as mommy – but he took more care – and that’s what the daughter noticed and wanted. And as he brushed her hair the second night, he was even more thoughtful and careful, because that’s how he was described.
Her affirmation led to her getting what she needed and encouraged the behavior that was easy for him to meet. The key is that she opened her mouth and said something.
The longer I work with teams the more I see this playing out in our work. It is so important to acknowledge and affirm what works for you and for the team. Over and over I see teams failing at this simple (and cheap!) task because it feels “unnecessary” or “scary” to affirm each other. And yes, it can be scary but if you want to be a high performing leader or team – its so very necessary.
The best teams do it routinely and yet still find a way to make it fresh and meaningful. If you’re looking for more strategies to do this – Let’s have a chat!