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A Case for the Back Seat Driver

August 15, 2009

On a recent back roads trip to visit a remote customer, I decided to use my trusty GPS system for guidance.  There I was, cruising comfortably along, assuming that I had set the GPS up correctly and entered the right address for a successful journey.  Then, out of the blue my friendly on-board computer says, “In four hundred yards, continue straight”.  Interesting that this machine just wanted to assure me that I was still pointed in the right direction.  I really hadn’t received any directional instructions in a while, so quite frankly, I was beginning to wonder if I was still on the right track.   It really was rather reassuring to have that interim positive update!

In general, giving consistent feedback is a good philosophy to follow, and unlike the typical back seat driver,  the goal here is to focus more on positive feedback.  In any organization, whether you’re dealing with your lower performers or your number one star, everyone needs a nod now and then to know when they’re on the right track.  It is often believed that your superstars don’t need as much attention, that they’re self motivated.  Everyone benefits from motivation and recognition, even your best performers.  A perfect example is a star athlete or even a renowned scholar who has always performed at the highest levels and succeeded above most others.  Even with a rich history of success and accolades, the one thing at the top of their mind is will they be tapped for the highest recognition.  In the case of the star athlete, it’s probably the hall of fame for their sport, and for the renowned scholar,  it could be the Nobel prize.  So you can see, even your most talented employees are most likely still wondering if they’re fully appreciated.

Furthermore, recognition shouldn’t be reserved for the elite few.   We should never assume that someone knows they’re doing a good job and knows they’re appreciated, that is the quickest way to accomplish just the opposite.   If your goal is to keep everyone engaged and in the game, they have to know that their work matters, and their good work matters even more.  There are many ways to recognize everyone’s solid work or positive outcomes, and even a simple mention of an accomplishment at a team meeting will go a long way.  As long as your recognition is justified, and also selective enough as to not be overdone, it will continue to be a very effective motivational tool.  So go ahead and and be that back seat driver, just remember that even your best drivers will appreciate hearing from you now and then.

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