As your team reaches out into 2016, to execute their myriad of tasks, it’s worth remembering a little research on managing people. Harvard Business Review published a fascinating piece a few years ago on research conducted by Emily Heaphy and Marcial Losada into the effectiveness of leadership of 60 divisions of a large computer company. The one question they were trying to answer amongst many: in leadership what is the most effective ratio of positive to negative feedback comments?

Is it 1:1 or 1:3 or 2:1? The results were compelling, the ideal ratio of positive to negative comments was 5.6:1 i.e. nearly 6 times the number of positive to negative comments. This ratio is supported by research done by John Gottman into happy marriages. The ratio of positive to negative comments for a happy marriage? 5:1. Wow, I clearly need to lie more!

So how does this research translate into a happy balanced team? What practical steps can you take, as the leader of your business, as the head of a department, or as the manager of a non-profit, to ensure a more positive environment? Here are a few pointers I’ve found helps create the best environment:

Management Pointers

1. Ensure clarity of ownership of the task at hand. Build an environment of accountability.

2. Praise great results at the time. Don’t hide behind the fact it’s their job! For example, if a sales professional closes a deal, let them know you appreciate it.

3. Go out of your way to reward the “off the ball” moves that support the team. There are so many decisive gestures done by silent heroes in business that go unrecognized. You know the type of things. The receptionist that stays late to help out in the office client event. The admin supervisor that works a 12-hour day to reconcile the purchase ledger. The web designer that produces the better version overnight.

4. Praise in public, discipline in private.

5. Build a culture of continual mastery to minimize negative feedback on missing skills.

6. Use mentoring in two directions. It’s not just about you mentoring a direct report, but also about you as the manager, hearing back their reaction and therefore their understanding of the point.

7. Don’t allow staff members to come to you with problems unless it has a solution wrapped around it. It may not be the best solution but it builds a culture of problem solving.

8. Demand curiosity from people. Negative feedback can often be avoided if team members would only ask more questions, thus clarifying all of the facts before giving up.

9. Promote and encourage honesty. Mistakes uncovered early are much cheaper to fix than later when the world uncovers it.

10. As a manager, be realistic on expectations, given the experience and workload of the team member.

Getting the right mix of positive and negative feedback is all about setting the scene, ensuring clarity of purpose and allowing a constructive culture to build around your business.

The Portfolio Partnership continues to offer practical operational support to leaders who wish to scale their businesses both organically and by acquisition. We offer complimentary, strictly confidential, “surgery hours” most weeks to help you create a remarkable business.