What is narrating the positive?
Narrating the positive is the concept which says that people learn from having their positive behaviours reinforced. So, when you see somebody taking actions which according to your business processes or values are beneficial, say so. Let them know that you have noticed that they are doing the right thing, and they’ll do it more.
When you are working with a team, the effects of narrating the positive are amplified. The team hears the appreciation, they are alerted to social proof of the positive behaviours or actions, leading them to emulate those behaviours.
Subtly guiding your team
Narrating the positive, however doesn’t have to be for big gestures and dramatic changes. You don’t need to be congratulating somebody for monumental efforts, or going above and beyond what is expected. Narrating the positive can be more subtle. Gently steering and reminding about the way we do things here – your company values.
For example, we’ll always remember to thank the team member who has made an ostentatious effort to be helpful by organising the work Christmas party, and rightly so. But what about the team member who turns up on time every day? Always works hard, and is always around to help. They are simply a reliable pair of hands. They may not be demonstrative in their helpfulness. So they may not receive the same praise as our outgoing party organiser. However, the importance of team members who work hard, are reliable and a steady source of support for their colleagues, can’t be overemphasised. So, in narrating the positive, we should be remembering to thank people. for being there on time again, as usual. Or those who are getting on with their work without a fuss or who are a supportive and stabilising force within our team.
For our veterinary readers, we can use a dog training analogy, that we reward them when they are doing the right thing. Even if the right things is just being calm and sitting under the table at the pub. (NB, sitting under the pub table is not a positive work based behaviour!)
Narrating the positive to drive change
Narrating positive is a really useful tool when you are undergoing change in your business. Change can be a traumatic event for many people in their workplace. After all, we all like to carry on in our easy groove, in autopilot. Any change involves effort, and for some people, a sense of loss. They may have liked the way things were done before and don’t see why they should change. When you see somebody making the effort to make a change, even if they are not all the way there yet, narrating the positive will show that you appreciate their efforts. This will make them feel good. Feeling good is what it’s all about. If our new action makes us feel good, then we’re going to do it again and try to do it better. Eventually, it will develop into a positive habit.
Again, in a team setting, narrating the positive can have a beneficial effect on change management for everyone. Not only will the person who you are complementing receive a buzz, but their colleagues will have social proof that change is happening and that new processes are being used. If as an organisation, you appreciate the efforts made by team members who follow these new processes, other team members are more likely to toe the line. They will make that extra effort to change the way they work, if they see that other people are already doing it and that the change has not gone unnoticed.
Be mindful in your appreciation
It is worth noting that simply saying thank you may not be as impactful as being more specific in your praise. State what it was they did that was good and why it is good. ‘Thank you for staying late/writing that protocol/training Alice/always being on time for work it saved me a lot of stress/really demonstrated our company values/helped out the team.
How can you narrate the positive and show appreciation to your team?
When you are walking around your business. Rather than attending to your inner monologue telling you about how late you are or how many things you’ve got to do, keep your eyes open to the actions of your team. See what they’re up to. Try to catch your team members doing the right thing, using a new process or protocol, or even persisting with one that you’ve been embedding for some time. Thank them for what they are doing and state why you appreciate it.
Embed it in your Leadership Team
Encourage your team leaders to do the same. Leading by example always helps, but make sure that in your management training you explicitly champion narrating the positive.
You could also pop them an e-mail or a message. Something coming out of the blue is a nice surprise. Make sure it’s not accompanied by. requests to do additional tasks or work, as that will reduce the impact of your positive action.
WOW boards are a nice idea. These are cork notice boards where any team member can post on the board to say thank you another team member, to show appreciation. But as mentioned earlier, this doesn’t have to be for heroic Wow actions. Simply being a hard worker, reliable or a supportive colleague is worthy of praise.
Say it with flowers!
Maybe your business has awards or thank you gifts. Though these are nice, they are limited in their scope. As only a small number of people will receive them over any given period.
How about raffle tickets? I recently heard about a veterinary practice with strong family values. They encourage their team to be grateful and appreciative of each other. Each team member gets 5 raffle tickets in their pay packet every month. They all have the opportunity to pass these tickets on to their colleagues by way of thank you for positive actions or kindness. At the end of each quarter, the tickets are counted up and the person with the most wins a voucher.
Embedded in your Training and Process Management System
Appreciation is something we strongly value at Training-Progress. So we developed a feature on the platform to assist businesses in showing appreciation to their team members. We call them Star Awards.
Star Awards can be given for any number of fabulous actions but we strongly encourage them to be given for really rather mundane things too. The team member who is reliable; the team member who is always on time; the team member who is making a change in their working processes according to new business protocol.
Star Awards mean that the team member receives some points and also a nice e-mail to say thank you. There is also a facility to include a thank you in the Community News feature. This means that you will be able to show appreciation in front of the team. Not only amplifying the positive message to the team member, but also providing social proof and behaviour modelling to the rest of the team. The added bonus of this system, is that Star Awards are included in the appraisal report which Training-Progress produces and is used in development and performance review meetings. What better way to evidence your appreciation for positive behaviours than by articulating them again 6 months down the line – fantastic. Star Awards are a rounded evidence based tool for performance and development review meetings.
So how will you narrate the positive with your team? In the word of Bing Crosby. ‘You’ve got to Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive……’