When I was at graduate school studying Organisational Psychology I remember reading about some old obscure psychological research. U.S Psychologists were involved with trying to help improve how to guide early missiles.
Now this is going to sound really far-fetched. They were experimenting with pigeons that were in the nose cone of a missile. The pigeons got food pellets dispensed to them for pecking at a particular grid that was attached to a steering mechanism that guided the missile. Classic, repetitive, positive reinforcement. (Incidentally, they abandoned the research because they didn’t want to see any pigeons killed.)
Whether it is with pets or people, positive reinforcement, or positive feedback, if delivered properly to shape desired behaviour is powerful.
For example, I really don’t like mowing the lawn anymore.
It sort of has its moments. You may have left it for a while before you mowed, it makes your place look better, and you can finally see where your dog has left her mark so folks don’t trod in it.
But what partly keeps me going, is that there has been several occasions while sweeping up or raking I have found some money. Someone may have accidentally dropped some money in the yard (probably me), or when they got out of a car in front of the house that $20 bill fell out and I found it in the leaves. I kind of look forward to mowing in case I find something, of monetary value that is.
I guess you could call that the interval ratio of positive reinforcement. This is partly why gambling can be addictive. This type of positive reinforcement, or positive feedback, when delivered right can be long lasting and impactful.
The point of this blog being, if you are a leader, and every so often you can provide some hardy, positive feedback to an employee, that may go a long way in regard to sustained performance.