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The Power of the Pat on the Back



This Christmas I got a present of six one-on-one coaching sessions from a swimming coach.

It proved to be a great gift for me. My swimming, never great, improved no end after the coaching sessions.

Having someone to coach me on technique was a boon. I had grown used to other swimmers powering past me in the swim lane like well-aimed torpedoes. That does not happen so often now

At this time of year (January) many CEOs issue what they believe to be motivational and inspirational messages to workers. But do messages from the top really inspire us and motivate us to work harder? Personally, I don’t think so.

Look at my swim coach’s simple motivation technique: She was clear about how I could improve my performance. She spent time building up my trust in her as a coach. She monitored me as I battered my way up and down the lane and then gave me direct feedback.

Most importantly, I think, she gave me an occasional verbal pat on the back (“excellent legs” being my favourite).

I think CEOs should leave the motivational stuff to those much further down the hierarchy. Tempting, as it must be, to fire off an inspirational New Year message to all employees, CEOs should resist the impulse. Workers’ immediate managers are best suited to the task of delivering praise. And managers should never underestimate the power of a well-delivered and timely pat on the back.

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