“Wait. What? Fox hunting… as a sport? What’s that?” I asked Erin, a new friend I just met at the gym.

Seeing her face beaming with pride, I had to know more about this sport (and her specific accomplishments).

Apparently fox hunting originated in England in the sixteenth century for the purpose of pest control. Back then, they used to kill the fox. Today (at least in the United States) the little critters just get the thrill of being chased down (not exactly my idea of humane, but the story was intriguing).

“Back when they still killed the fox,” Erin explained, “the judge of the competition would take the blood of the fox with his fingers and put a line on each cheek of the person who won the competition.”

Today, there’s no blood involved, but that doesn’t stop passionate chasers from keeping in shape and advancing their skills.

Erin had won the competition the previous weekend while riding one of the most challenging breeds of horse for fox hunting. (I don’t remember the type of horse… fox hunters, help me out.)

At the end of the chase, the judge came up to her and said, “If we still did the blood stripes, I would be putting them on you today.”

It was days later, and Erin’s face was still lit up as she shared about her experience. She was proud.

Making praise a part of your daily routine

Watching her beam with pride, I found myself wondering how many leaders miss out on the opportunity to instigate such positive vibes (boost engagement, increase collaboration, and even spark innovation) on their team.

Making it a habit to acknowledge the good qualities in your team every single day, you can become the instigator of the kind of positive energy that leads to increasingly higher levels of engagement, accountability, and profitability.

Affirming your team for their accomplishments creates positive momentum

As Ivan Pavlov discovered in his famous dog experiments, providing a stimulus (acknowledgement for a job well done) leads to more of that same behavior. While you certainly don’t want to treat your team like a bunch of impulse driven animals, there are some key takeaways from those studies: by providing positive reinforcement, and being a place where people come to for positive reinforcement, you can inspire the kind of performance you’re hoping for.

So, while many leaders find themselves thinking, “Why would I acknowledge them for doing what they’re paid to do,” smart leaders recognize (and capitalize on) the positive momentum created by specific and timely acknowledgement for a job well done.

Boosting Productivity through a Self-Reinforcing Virtuous Cycle

So, how do you (systematically, over time) create a cascade of positive momentum?

Here is a simple 5 step process to instigate positive momentum on your team:

First, before you start this process, decide that you are going to affirm the great things your employees are doing.

  1. Before you leave your house, put 5 pennies in your right pocket.
  2. Intentionally look for reasons to acknowledge your team (and the people around you).
  3. Tell them your own version of, “You’re an excellent fox chaser.”
  4. Release expectations. For a variety of reasons, most people are terrible (at least initially) at accepting compliments. If they fluff you off (say, “Nah”), don’t take it personally. Instead, gently remind them that they can simply respond to your compliment with  ‘Thank you.’
  5. Transfer one penny to your left pocket each time you affirm someone for something great. Repeat this throughout the day, until all of the pennies are transferred.

Bonus step: Increase to 10 pennies after thirty days.

Do this every day for a year, and watch as the positive energy on your team leads to increased performance and profitability.

Misti Burmeister has been helping leaders boost engagement and productivity across generations for more than 15 years. Help your team reach its highest potential at https://MistiBurmeister.com