3 Research-Backed Pieces of Advice for New Managers (and New Parents)

by | Mar 13, 2016 | NEW MANAGER TRAINING

All new managers take on their new role intending to do their very best and to nurture a highly successful team. New parents, too, begin their parenting role with the best of intentions. Yet both, while meaning no harm, may in fact discourage growth and learning because of the way they try to encourage growth and learning.

You would think that praise would encourage further effort and learning in both the business world and in the home. But it can backfire. According to recent studies, if given the wrong way or focused on the wrong things, praise can actually slow or even hinder performance and capability.

A few years ago, ABC News highlighted a study of over 100 fifth graders who were divided into two groups for a simple intelligence test. Once the results were in,
• One group was given praise for “effort.”
• The other group was given praise for how “smart” they were.

When all students were asked if they’d like to follow up with a test that was a bit harder, the first group was eager; the second group hesitant. Not only did 90% from the group praised for effort eagerly accept the next challenge, they did much better on the final test than the group that was praised for their innate intelligence. The conclusion? Praising kids for just being smart can discourage them from taking on greater challenges and from learning new things. Kids begin to think that, because they are smart, there is no need to put in extra effort. And, if they fail, they are apt to crumble rather than dig into the challenge of improving.

So that’s the lesson for teachers and for parents. How does this research translate into new manager training?

1. Recognize Effort.
When employees are praised for effort they become more dedicated to learning, practicing, and applying a new skill. And a mind that is open to coaching and doing it better each time, is a mind that improves performance. Especially when the behavior change is difficult, those who attack the challenge with the desire to learn and grow are the employees who will remain engaged, curious and productive.

2. Reward Effort.
Workers are motivated to learn, grow and perform when they understand that effort counts. Everyone trying to reach higher levels of performance makes mistakes. As a manager, you want them to stay engaged, learn from what went wrong and be driven to do better next time. This is when you should praise and reward because this is the behavior you want to encourage. You may have some very smart members on your team but they will be less effective if they don’t know how to learn, take in feedback and apply it to the future.

3. Be Specific.
When you want to encourage your team members to maintain effort and continuously learn, be very specific about the praise you give and don’t overdo it. To empower your workers to improve and change, praise their specific hard work, not their natural ability.

Thanks for your effort in reading this new manager training blog post. You did a great job!

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