Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Water Water Everywhere!

Lately, I see more managers engaged in frequent feedback sessions with employees. But too often, some feedback sessions become opportunities for regularly scheduled criticism. I think it should be equal parts of praise and criticism. Always. If we asked your staff would they say that your recipe is 50/50?

Donald O. Clifton, the guru who ran the Gallup Organization for several decades had a simple and powerful way he put this into the workplace. It sounds a little corny, but his method was called "A Drop In The Bucket". He believed that we go to work with an empty "bucket" and mostly, we hope that others help fill it with acknowledgement that our work makes a difference.

Don created notepads shaped like drops of water - about 6" square - and passed them out to everyone in an office. When it was deserved, you write a "drop" of praise for someone - an employee, peer or manager.

The praise should be specific, at least 5 sentences long, and personal. And sign your name. Then, the writer tapes the drop to the person's office, cubicle, desk or chair. Anyplace, as long as it could be seen by others.

At first, I was my usual skeptical self. But our managers liked the idea so we bought the pads and gave one to every employee. And we made one extra request. Each pad had 25 drops and we asked everyone to use up their entire pad in 2 months. Could they - would they - write 25 notes?

The results were fantastic. Amazing, actually.

Their dedicattion to writing the notes was wonderful. But this was better: we'd spy a little and see someone return to their desk and find a new drop. They'd read it, smile and do a quick look around. It was like grade school when you received a valentine from a crush. Big smile.

After a few weeks it was water, water, everywhere!
But the most surprising payoff was around critical feedback. Over time, those drops really were filling everyones' buckets in meaningful ways. And when your bucket is full of water you can lose a cup and it's OK. You barely miss it. In other words, it became easier for managers to deliver criticism because it was offset so perfectly by the drops. Take some water out of the bucket and more showed up.

That's how criticism works. If a bucket is empty there is nothing to take out. If you never receive the praise you deserve then the criticism is hard to take. You can't get water from a stone.

Or an empty bucket.


Charles said...

This is a wonderful idea which I will use in the future. I have been there, where legitimate criticism is rebuffed by an employee saying, "I only hear from you when something is wrong." It's a reasonable response if there the criticism is not balanced with praise. I like this idea a lot.

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printandradio said...

Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.

istartus said...

Thanks for this great idea.

istartus said...

Great idea.

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