Compliments - critical in the management toolkit - Business Works
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Compliments - critical in the management toolkit

Adi Gaskell, management writer Motivation and employee engagement are near the top of any managers check-list of things they need to accomplish with their teams. There has been a gradual shift in recent years away from trying to motivate via extrinsic means towards looking instead at intrinsic motivation.

Whilst this has tended to focus on things such as making peoples jobs enjoyable, giving them flexible working and so on, research is suggesting that an altogether simpler solution is out there. Last year I wrote about some research that investigated the things that gave participants the most satisfaction in life. It included things like playing sport, going shopping and having sex. All pretty enjoyable things. Except the thing they found most enjoyable was being thanked for a job well done. That's right, they found being thanked more rewarding and enjoyable than making love, which is pretty powerful don't you think?

A new piece of research has supported this conclusion. The research team asked participants to perform a task in one of three groups. The first group included an evaluator who would compliment participants individually. The second group had an evaluator who would compliment some, but not all, whilst the third group asked participants to evaluate their own performance.

The three groups all went about their tasks, and were then asked to repeat the tasks the following day. They were exactly the same tasks, the only difference was the feedback offered to participants on the previous day. Did it make a difference? You betcha!

The group who had received direct individual feedback performed significantly better than those in the other two groups.

According to Professor Norihiro Sadato, the study lead and professor at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan, "To the brain, receiving a compliment is as much a social reward as being rewarded money. We’ve been able to find scientific proof that a person performs better when they receive a social reward after completing an exercise. Complimenting someone could become an easy and effective strategy to use in the classroom and during rehabilitation."

The researchers had previously discovered that the same area of the brain affected in this study, the striatum, is activated when a person is rewarded a compliment or cash.

All of which has some pretty obvious implications for you as a manager. If you want your team to improve their performance, a great way of doing so is to pay them a compliment.

Adi Gaskell is a management writer and social business expert.

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