People of all ages respond well to the right kind of feedback. As parents and executive coaches, we’ve noticed that certain key concepts of positive psychology are effective in both parenting and work settings.
1. Shine a light on what’s going right.
As Margaret and her colleague Dana Arakawa found in their research, thanking people and recognizing their work is directly tied to better productivity. Managers who gave the most positive feedback also ran teams that were 42 percent more productive compared with the managers who gave the least positive feedback.
And of course children respond well to your gratitude when they help with chores without being asked.
We’ll fill you in on a little productivity secret: It’s more motivating to your team—and to your kids—to be recognized for things that they’re doing well.
2. Give process praise, not person praise.
If Margaret could change one aspect of her parenting, it would be how she praised her daughters. She praised their good deeds by saying, “You’re so smart” or “You’re such a good girl,” thinking she was encouraging more of the same behavior.
But research by Carol Dweck, Ph.D., of Stanford University, and others, shows that such praise (called person praise) can demotivate people in the long term. Why? Because people may stop working on projects in which they can’t immediately see the payoff of being smart or fast or talented.
What’s the solution? Process praise. With our kids, that means giving them specific praise about what they’ve done—something like: “Recording your favorite TV shows the last two nights so you could make flashcards for your test showed dedication, Joey! That extra time and effort really made a difference!”
The same detailed feedback works in the office. We’re setting people up for future success by emphasizing that more effort pays off.
3. Change it into a habit.
Wendy Wood, Ph.D., of the University of Southern California, is the foremost expert on habits. She finds two major benefits of habits: Emotionally, they remove stress from a task, and mentally, they free our minds to think about other things. The next time you’re looking to change behavior at work or at home, think of habits.
When a client wanted to contribute more in group settings, we encouraged her to ask a question or say something within the first 15 minutes of a meeting. In each of our homes, to avoid distractions and foster deeper conversations, we created a family habit: The dinner table is a phone-free zone.
We hope you, too, can practice crossover skills that help at home and at work!