Encouraging Excellent Performance
September 30, 2008, 8:58am PDT | Length: 00:03:08
Encouragement—it free, it's fast, and it can change the way employees work. But it's more than just a pat on the back. It's the art and science of getting someone to do more of something they're already doing well. Follow the SPPIFI technique—specific, pure, positive, immediate, frequent, and irregular—to get more greatness out of the people you work with.
Edward Muzio: Hi, I am Edward Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics. I am going to tell you how to encourage excellent performance with the people on your team.
There is a performance improvement tool that is free. It takes less than five minutes. It is highly effective, and yet it is one of the least used techniques in business in many companies today.
That technique is called encouragement. It is the art and science of getting someone to do more of something they are already doing well. Now, I am not talking about saying 'attaboy' or 'good job' here. Those make people feel good. I am talking about a specific kind of communication that will increase the frequency of good performance.
There are some rules for that, and we abbreviate those with the acronym, SPPIFI, S‑P‑P‑I‑F‑I. Here is how it works.
S stands for Specific. When I give you feedback, it needs to be very specific. If you hand me a report, I shouldn't say 'good job on this report' because you really don't understand what you did. I should say, "Thank you for writing a clear executive summary at the front". It clarified your thinking and helped me clarify my own. That way you know exactly what you did well.
P stands for Pure. Now, we all have a tendency to do this. We say, "You did a great job on this and this and this, but here is what you could improve". We call this the 'but sandwich'. The problem is you forget everything before the 'but', and it sounds like negative information. Keep it pure. Talk about what was good and leave it at that.
The next P stands for Positive. This means give it in a positive direction. A good thing to say is, "The report was very clear". That's positive feedback. What you don't want to say is something like, "Thanks for not writing a confusing report". The double negative is confusing.
I stands for Immediate. I need to give you this feedback as soon as possible after the performance. When you hand me the report, I read it and say 'good job on this specific thing'. That's good. If I wait six months and then tell you, you've forgotten what you did. It doesn't matter anymore‑‑as immediate as possible afterward.
F stands for Frequent, and this is frequent at first. If I want you to really increase the frequency of your performance, I need to give you the feedback a lot, often over and over again over the course of a week or two or three weeks. I can back off the frequency later, but initially you need a lot of reinforcement.
Speaking of reinforcement, I stands for Irregular. What we don't want to do is have me walk into your office every Tuesday at lunch time and say 'good job'. You will start to expect me, and it will seem insincere. I need to spread the encouragement out over the week, over the month, at times you don't expect it. That way you don't see it coming, and it really serves as a positive force in your own performance.
So, that's it. Encouragement is SPPIFI, S‑P‑P‑I‑F‑I. Keep it specific. Keep it pure. Keep it positive. Give it immediately and frequently at first at irregular intervals. If you do those six things, you will get more greatness out of the people you work with.