What gets rewarded, gets repeated

Posted March 13th, 2010 by Steve Alexander

I recently attended a seminar on employee motivation, team-building and coaching, looking for some additional, new tips and reminders for my coaching work with leaders and teams. I was struck by this simple phrase, “What gets rewarded, gets repeated!” It reminded me of my early days as a young pup working on my bachelor’s degree in psychology. B.F. Skinner’s theory about rewarding behavior is easily summarized in that phrase. Yet, too often we forget it. And when we forget to acknowledge how much we appreciate our co-workers, and others in our lives who matter to us, as a result we see our teams, co-workers, the workplace, even our own relationships slip into mediocrity. Folks end up “just putting in the time.”

On a recent vehicle purchase, when the person who handled the transaction went above-and-beyond my expectations (this during the swirl of media about problems with Toyotas), I made sure I completed the customer satisfaction survey, and that they got complimented for their extraordinary effort. Sure, it took a few minutes to complete the survey (we get most of them on-line these days, so they’re easy to do… and also easy to ignore). It does take something from us to extend that compliment, the notice and thanks for someone who took the time to care. Was it worth it?

When I got the call that the survey was mentioned at a staff meeting, and this professional beamed with satisfaction for the recognition, I knew it mattered. And it was worth it.

If we want folks to show up on time and be prepared, thank them when they do. If someone’s gone the extra mile, find a way to call it out… to them and to others. Build into your teams and your work day the opportunities to reward and recognize the kind of behavior you want. It’s easy to fall into the habit of simply taking it for granted.

So, next time someone does something worth noticing, notice it. The cost of a compliment is inexpensive. The results… priceless.

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One Response to “What gets rewarded, gets repeated”

  1. Pat Maher says:

    So simple, why don’t we do it more often!?!?
    One thing, “young pup”, I don’t think you were ever a “pup”!

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