Catch Them Doing Something Right

There is nothing new about positive reinforcement…

In 1988 I had the honor of being the Early Morning Speaker at the National Safety Congress at McCormick Place in Chicago.  One of the points I tried to make was that the best way to get people working safely is to catch them working safely and compliment them on it.  Throughout the twentieth century we did just the opposite.  We were busy passing out a book full of safety rules and then spent our time looking for violations.  When we discovered somebody doing something unsafe or wrong we pounced upon them with a lecture on safety just as if we had discovered a treasure. Sometimes we had a hearing and disciplined them. I first discovered the value of this idea when I wrote a series of children’s books on positive living.  I challenged each teacher to take a list of all their students and set out to somehow catch each of them something right and then commenting favorably to them about it. If this is done with bystanders present all the better.  I’ve had teachers call me with reports about how it took them weeks to find some students doing just one thing right but when they discovered it and they commented upon it then almost immediately they found that same student doing another good thing and another and another. I have had some teachers so thrilled with this discovery that they would be in tears with joy. There is nothing new about positive reinforcement but have you tried it with the people you deal with every day?  Why not give it a shot? I met with a safety person in a rather small manufacturing plant last week and he told me that they had just gone one year without an injury for the first time in their plant’s history and he said that if he had to give credit to one practice for this breakthrough he would say that it was the positive reinforcement that he offered each worker in regard to safety.

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