Let me review what we have learned so far. Effective reinforcement or recognition has to occur as close to the desired behaviour as possible. The person typically best able to provide that recognition is the immediate supervisor due to proximity and role. In short, they help the team to set the goals, identify the desired behaviours and provide recognition when those behaviours happen. So what is missing in this cycle?
Presence. It should be obvious by now that a person leading a team of people who is looking to reinforce a set of behaviours around performance needs to "be there" to catch those behaviours and provide recognition. I call this active supervision.
Active supervision should be organic, intentional and habitual. (How’s that for a mouthful?) The supervisor needs to create a habit of getting around to where the team is. They need to decide what behaviours they are going to recognize (intention) and they need to do it often enough so that it does not seem out of place (organic).
At an LNG plant the head operator typically stays in the control room to monitor the panels. These head operators and I were having a discussion one evening about how their supervisors who sit literally across the hall never get out to see the crew and are for all intent, absent. So I asked one head operator how often he got out each shift to see his crew? He thought about it and had to admit rarely, if ever.
Upon further discussion he decided that his assistant operator would man the panel a few times each shift so that he could go out to see the crew and provide some recognition for the behaviours he wanted. It seemed strange to them at first because this had never happened and so things were a bit stilted. But as they got used to seeing him around it became normal and he was able to provide the recognition he wanted to his team. And yes, performance went up. What’s more he felt he had a better grasp of what was happening on his team.
Too often we get in the habit of what the Army calls leading from the rear. There is no replacement for "being there.” It is the only way to look for those things that you want to reinforce. Performance Leadership - Think About It!