Extensive research has shown that teams and individuals perform better when they receive regular, effective feedback about their performance. In fact the Gallup organisation found that the statement “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for good work” was the fourth most important factor in achieving superior performance. But what is effective feedback and how can we make the greatest impact on the performance of our people both in the short and long term?
Over recent years leaders on our Greenbank programmes have been applying the 3:1 ratio when giving feedback and finding that it is a great, practical rule of thumb that has helped them to manage their people more effectively.
In our experience we have found that what a leader focuses on when giving feedback is as important as how often they offer feedback to the people who report to them In an article entitled “The Impact of Positive Leadership” by Tom Rath, co-author of the book “How Full is Your Bucket?” he introduces the concept of PNR. The PNR is the ratio of bad or unpleasant interactions to the good or positive interactions. If this ratio is consistently unbalanced the impact of performance can be severe and may even lead to the loss of key employees. So it is important that leaders are aware of his or her contribution to the PNR. As Tom Rath states, “ Unless you are actively working, today and every day, to make sure your employee has more positive interactions, you may soon have a disengaged employee on your hands—or worse, you could lose one of your best people.”
For instance, we work extensively with Project Managers and have seen the importance of them managing the PNR during the life of a project. We encourage our Project Managers to take a good, long look at their own leadership styles and how they interact with their project team members…
What is the PNR in your team? Think back to the last week of work and how many of your interactions were positive and how many focussed on the negative? For instance, we frequently ask our programme participants this question and here are some of the examples they have shared with us:
“We had our regular review meetings scheduled for 9am. Jim, one of my key project team members was ten minutes late, and when he finally arrived and took his seat I said something like, Well, I guess we can get started now.”
“I got a report from one of my team last week which was not up to the quality that I expected so I zinged it back to her with a quick comment-Were you actually listening last week when I explained what I needed?”
‘I called the whole team together to review the project and plan the next steps and remember kicking off with, So we had some real problems last week and the client is making a lot of noise about the slippage on timescales…”
Think back to your own experience and whether you can remember some similar interactions and comments. Or think about when you have been on the receiving end of these type of comments? What impact did it have on you? Of course, we certainly need to identify any problems and respond to difficulties but by focusing on the negative aspects at the expense of the positives is unlikely to energise and motive our teams to deliver the improved performance that we need.
So how about starting a meeting off with “Good to see you all again” or “Nice work team; we are really making progress” or “I really appreciate the work you do.” It is extremely important to maintain an awareness of the PNR and balance it in favour of the positive side if we are to get the best from our people. In the words of Blanchard and Johnson’s ‘The One Minute Manager’, ‘Catch them doing something right!’
The Magic 3:1 Ratio
According to Tom Rath, studies show that teams with a PNR greater than 3:1 were significantly more productive than teams that did not reach this ratio.
We believe that it is important for managers to begin to track their PNR and to look for ways to improve the ratio. According to the Tom Rath article, positive leaders deliberately increase the flow of positive emotions within their organization. They choose to do this because it leads to a measurable increase in performance. The simple fact is that people don’t also know they are doing good things – so if people are doing something well the smart leader will let them know it – which will encourage them to keep on doing it! Leaders who share positive emotions have work groups or project teams with:
- A more positive mood and working environment
- Enhanced motivation and willingness to offer and seek greater team support
- Increased engagement among individuals and the team as a whole
- Improved productivity and overall performance
How to improve your PNR score?
Managers who we have worked with have actively sought ways to improve their PNR scores and here are a few of the things they found worked for them:
- At team meetings ask team members to offer up some feedback to a colleague whose contribution they have valued over the last month, ‘What I really valued during the last month was when you…….”
- Remember to say thank you rather than just think it!
- Don’t just praise – give some real evidence that what they did made a difference
- Focus on what has been achieved rather than only focusing on the challenges ahead or what still needs to be accomplished.
- Recognise effort as well as results
- If things have gone badly move the focus to what did we learn and how will we be successful next time around
In the tough business climate in which we all need to operate, do you want to be a manager who others want to do things for – and feel appreciated when they do go the extra mile for you? If so then we encourage you to keep track of the PNR in your area and focus on the magic 3:1 ratio.
We would like to hear from you about practical ways that you have used and found to have an impact on PNR and most importantly on the performance of your teams.
‘A Hard Look at Soft Numbers’ by Curt Coffman and Jim Harter Ph.D of The Gallup Organisation
‘How Full is Your Bucket’-Tom Rath & Donald Clifton