If You Can’t Say Anything Nice: Gottman’s 5 to 1 Rule
3rd October 2011 · 0 Comments
Dr. John Gottman’s “5 to 1 Rule” was originally developed as a guideline for romantic relationships, but it can be applied to business relationships, as well.
It’s essentially a “magic ratio” that can be used to balance positive and negative interactions in a relationship. For every negative interaction, you need to have at least five positive interactions to balance it.
That’s because a negative comment (or correction) can hold much more weight than a positive comment.
You may have noticed that no matter how many times you compliment your spouse, he or she will never let you live down an insult. Your employees can have a similar reaction to a critical comment, and may need multiple positive interactions to help them feel confident and stable in their position.
The following chart illustrates the difference between a Manager’s Perspective and Employee’s Perspective on the weight of a positive versus negative interaction.
Of course, the ratio shouldn’t be considered literal. There’s no need to carry around a tally sheet or to record your conversations. But, it’s important to keep this ratio in mind when interacting with your employees.
That’s because the majority of managers only provide corrective feedback. Eventually, employees may view this as your normal mode of communication, and it can lessen the impact of a correction and demoralize your team.
Some manager’s have addressed this concern by applying the “correction sandwich,” popularized in books like Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s The One Minute Manager. The theory is to lessen the blow of a correction by framing it with two compliments. However, it can also lessen the impact of the correction and cause confusion because the employee may misinterpret the intent of the interaction.
So what’s a leader to do?
Find the Good
As a business owner, it’s important to step up your positive interactions with your employees.
If you’re positive with an employee enough, you will build up a “relationship bank account.” So when it does come time to correct them, it’s not as harsh. Instead, they will see it as constructive because they recognize how much you value their contributions.
Keep in mind, it’s not enough to compliment your employee on his or her haircut or new sweater. Your compliments must be relevant to their job, and specific enough that they know you’re really paying attention. Most importantly, your comments should always be genuine.
For a lot of entrepreneurs, this can be difficult. It’s often not in our nature to thank people for “just doing their job.” But, you shouldn’t take for granted a dependable employee who you can consistently rely on to fulfill the duties of their position.
Chances are, everybody on your team does something positive each day. (If not, they may not be a fit for the position, or your company.) Set the intention, find the feedback to give, and put it on your to-do list.
If you don’t have a genuine appreciation for the people on your team or are disappointed with their contribution, you may not be leading properly.
Amplify the Praise for Maximum Impact
“Leveraged” positives can enhance the 5 to 1 ratio. They can take many forms, including public recognition, rewards, trophies, etc.
At the Charfen Institute, we have institutionalized positive feedback on a daily basis in our company huddle.
A “huddle” is a group meeting that allows connection and causes alignment through consistent sharing of key metrics, accomplishments, goals and organizational direction.
We set aside time each day in our huddle for team members to “catch each other being awesome.” Everyone from executive leadership to entry-level employees are invited to recognize their team members in a public setting. This form of institutionalized praise amplifies the impact of the recognition because it’s shared throughout the entire organization.
Don’t underestimate the impact of public praise and recognition, especially when it comes from you as a business owner and leader. It’s often a bigger motivator than money.
In fact, a paycheck isn’t what motivates most human beings. What is more motivating is:
- Being part of something greater than themselves
- An understanding that others care about what they do
- Knowing that others understand their contribution
- Respect for their efforts
As a leader, you must provide positive encouragement if you want people to rise to their full potential.
- For every correction you give, your employees need at least five positive interactions to balance it.
- Appreciation should be genuine.
- Even if someone is just doing their job, tell them they did a great job.
- Constant correction leads to demoralization. Demoralized employees are unproductive.
- Institutionalize positive feedback in a company huddle.
- When recognition is institutionalized, you have leverage because everyone sees the recognition.
- Don’t lead from afar. Leadership requires proximity, so be complimentary and encouraging.
- If you can’t think of five reasons to praise every person on your team right now, question your own leadership ability. Who recruited them, who hired them, who continues to pay them, who coaches them and who manages them? The buck stops with you.
Learn more about Gottman’s Rule and the Seven Universal Business Principles of Fast-Growth Companies at the LEAD Experience™ training event on October 5-7 in Austin, Texas. For a free preview of the course, please visit: http://lead-experience.com/free-preview.
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