Let me review what we have learned so far. Effective reinforcement or recognition has to occur as close to the desired behavior 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 behaviors, and provide recognition when those behaviors happen. So what is missing in this cycle?
Presence. It should be obvious, by now, that a person leading a team of people who are looking to reinforce a set of behaviors around performance needs to - be there - to catch those behaviors 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 behaviors 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 staff? He thought about it and had to admit rarely, if ever.
Upon further discussion, he decided that his assistant operator would take over the panel a few times each shift so that he could go out to see the crew and provide some recognition for the behaviors 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, they became used to his presence, and he was able to provide the recognition he wanted to his team. And yes, performance went up. What is 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!