Positive Management


There is a saying “people leave managers, not companies.” Its true.


In surveys by the American Psychological Association, half of all employees who said they did not feel valued by their manager at work also said they intend to look for a new job in the next year.


A study by Florida State University found thirty-seven percent of people reported that their supervisor failed to give credit when due. Twenty-seven percent noted that their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers. Twenty-three percent indicated that their supervisor blames others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment.


Is it any wonder people want to leave their managers?


Did you know the average cost of replacing an employee amounts to fully 20 percent of the person's annual salary? That means if someone is earning $30,000 a year its going to cost you $6000 to replace them after recruiting and training.


Furthermore a study on the Sears company found that when employee satisfaction improved by 5%, customer satisfaction improved by 3%, which led to a 2% improvement in revenue.


So, you can potentially save the company $6000 a year and increase revenue by 2% without spending any money just by tweaking or adjusting your management philosophy slightly.


There are several ways that a manager's philosophy can be categorized, one of the simplest was proposed in the 1950’s by a gentleman named Douglas McGregor. He suggested that managers can either be categorized as being either Theory X or Theory Y. The 30 second summary is that Theory X managers believe that people are lazy, don't want to work and it is the job of the manager to force or coerce them to work. Theory Y managers on the other hand believe that people will perform well if treated positively, and that they should be viewed as "assets" that should be valued and developed.  Research has shown that Theory Y managers get better results.


I think that that a less dry way of describing Theory Y management is “positive management.” I’d like to offer you a few ways you can practice positive management on a daily basis.


First, praise in public, improve in private.

When you do have to give an employee feedback on an area of improvement make sure to do it in private. If you want them to improve avoid embarrassing them in front of their peers. Give them specific examples, avoid generalities. Phrase it as “I” instead of “you.” For example “I think you could improve by smiling at customers more” rather than “you never smile at customers.” Give them the benefit of the doubt, let them explain their side of the story, even if you know they are wrong. Let them get it out and then offer your alternative perspective on it. Use the phrase “perception is reality.” This is a way to get them to work on improvement and saving face without necessarily having to come out and say they were wrong. The most important thing here is that they get better not that they confess to their sins. Make the improvement seem very achievable. Give them suggestions on how exactly they can make this improvement. Make them want to improve, sandwich the improvement in some praise. “You are great at doing that, you know one thing you could do to be even better in your role is this.”


Dale Carnegie in his excellent book “How to make friends and influence people” cites several examples of under-performing employees who have improved by being praised on the area they are underperforming in. I’ve seen this work in practice as a manager too. How does this work? You pick an area they need to improve in and every time you see them do it just slightly right you make a big deal out of it. You give them a pat on the back. What you will find is slowly but surely they will get better and better. When you praise employees do it as publicly as possible. It will make them feel super good and it sets a great example for other employees.


Give examples of your own past mistakes. This will avoid looking like you are saying that you are perfect and it will make them more receptive to the feedback. It also helps make the improvement seem achievable. “Look, I did it, you can too.”


Give people an excellent reputation to live up to. This is another idea I stole from Dale Carnegie. To get an employee to improve tell them how great they are. Employees generally rise (or fall) to meet your expectations. If you tell a good employee that you think they are great they will become great. Equally if you tell a great employee they are only good, they will sink to that level of performance.


Be like the manager in the “One Minute Manager” book and give praise or improvements as soon as possible after you notice them and then move on. Another very important point mentioned in this book by the way is the importance of setting clear expectations early on. If your employees don’t know what you want from them they probably won’t give it to you! This is so true!


Next, lead by example - you are the role model for your employees. Model the behaviors you want your employees to exhibit.

Don’t want your employees gossiping? Then avoid gossip yourself, and actively squash it when you hear others gossiping.

Don’t want your employees to be disrespectful to their colleagues? Treat them with respect.

Don’t want your employees dressing scruffily? Then dress smart yourself.

Don’t want your employees to get angry with customers? Stay calm yourself.


A gentleman named Jim Rohn said “we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” It is also said that “behaviour breeds behaviour.” Use this to your advantage, model good behaviour and your colleagues will start to copy you.


Set the example you want others to follow. Do it publicly, do it proudly, do it persistently.


Studies show that managers who share positive emotions have teams with:

  • a more positive mood

  • enhanced job satisfaction

  • greater engagement

  • improved performance

When difficulties arise offer a positive perspective. “Yes I know its hard when we are short staffed but someone new will be joining us soon.” “I know we don’t have that piece of equipment yet but think how grateful we will be when it arrives.”


Lastly, have a positive vision, let them know what the positive goal they are striving for is. “IN THE ABSENCE OF A POSITIVE FOCUS, A NEGATIVE CLIMATE WILL BE THE NORM.”

Get the team to come up with a positive mission statement. Guide them towards where you want them to go when doing this but make sure they feel like they have contributed towards it. This will make them feel like they own it, like its theirs, and if they own it they will follow it.

Use the vision as a tool. When giving feedback say “I saw that a few minutes ago, next time how could you use our vision to do it better.”


Build a culture of positivity, a culture where employees praise each other, an environment where all your employees are getting better, where they avoid gossip, where they want to help each other, where they enjoy their work. These are all things we want, right? Do this by being a positive manager.


To recap, to be a positive manager:

  • praise in public, improve in private

  • lead by example

  • have a positive vision




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