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” It’s amazing” said Krishna, a manager I was coaching. ” This guy Rahul in my team has changed so much! I am surprised I didn’t notice many strengths in him before”. We were having a coaching review. Based on my suggestion, Krishna had consciously used more praise (when warranted of course) with Rahul.

The doses of praise resulted in strong improvements in Rahul’s performance. He showed much greater initiative than before, he was much quicker in his actions, and consciously making attempts to learn a new skill he had hitherto stayed far away from.

As I told Krishna when we were chatting later, a central theme we use is that behaviour is a function of its consequences. The consequences of what we do go a long way in promoting or maintaining a behaviour. If the consequences are positive, more often then not, we strain to repeat the behaviour. If the consequences are negative, more often than not, we do our best to avoid that behaviour. I am sure in your own work, you would have come across many examples.

Positive reinforcement takes place when a desired behaviour is rewarded with a pleasant and satisfying experience. Krishna praised Rahul’s efforts to improve and improve he did. Negative reinforcement, by the way, does not mean a punishment. It just means removing a negative consequence of a behaviour. For example, when Rahul showed more initiative in learning a new skill, Krishna stopped pestering him to learn it.

Knowing these fundamentals about behaviour and using this knowledge in managing their teams helps managers like Krishna become more effective.

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