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Rewarding Behavior Is Contagious

My choice of exercise has always been running. For years, I’ve enjoyed the slow rhythm of the run. Some of my best ideas come while I’m running. It is also an opportunity for me to research by listening to lectures and taking “notes by voice” using my iPhone. Typically I run an hour most days — anywhere from five to seven miles, five days a week. I prefer to run on pavement, but in Washington State, doing so poses a challenge. Most roads in the Pacific Northwest don’t have sidewalks like they do in California and other larger, more populated states and cities. I often find myself running on a collision course into oncoming traffic with inches to spare as a vehicle passes me.

Over the years, I have noticed several patterns from drivers. Some don’t even acknowledge me and continue to drive straight, which sometimes is far too close. There are also drivers who veer away from me slightly, but the best I can tell, they have a belief or mental block that prevents them from veering much at all. Others graciously give me as much room as possible; sometimes these drivers even veer completely over the yellow center lines and drive on the opposite side of the road when no oncoming cars are present. I appreciate the courtesy of these drivers; I feel acknowledged and respected.

I’ve often mused that the way a person drives is a reflection of his or her self-esteem and broader view of the world, but let’s save that discussion for a later blog post. Nevertheless, I’ve noticed one particular pattern when I run. First, I wave to every person who makes an effort to give me space by veering. I reward the effort and the courtesy! I have also found that when I wave my hand to thank a driver who gives me space on the road, almost automatically the second, third, fourth, and even fifth driver behind the first vehicle will likewise duplicate the behavior. In other words, if I acknowledge the kindness of the first car others will follow – and again I will wave to independently each car as they pass. It happens nine times out of ten.

It’s the same with people and how they respond to behaviors, even leadership. Most people are good, and if you notice and acknowledge the good behavior or effort, people are more likely to continue it. When you give positive feedback, people naturally want to honor that feedback in the future.

Leadership Insight: By catching people in the act of doing what’s right, they will want to go the extra mile and give their best. Additionally, treat people not as they are, but as they are capable of becoming.

Over the years, I have found that the great organizations are those that seek to create an open and positive culture — these cultures build on trust and respect. It is also clear that they make it a priority to look for the good in others, always seeking to be better. When done consistently, it becomes contagious throughout the organization. If you want the respect of your people as a leader, then be respectful.

Ask yourself: What part of my behavior do I want replicated and mirrored throughout the organization? Is my attitude and behavior the best it can be?

The choice is yours. Attitudes are contagious. Too many people have what I call, “complimentitis”. Reward – through recognition –what you want to persist! Unleash your greatness within by building others around you!


About TJ Hoisington:

TJ Hoisington is the bestselling author of “If You Think You Can!” and “The Secret of the Slight Edge.” He has authored other books and training programs on peak performance, personal development, and leadership. As a motivation speaker and organizational performance expert, TJ Hoisington has been invited speak to audiences of 10 executives or 15,000 people. TJ's mission is to provide inspiration and tools that empower people and organizations achieve their goals by unleashing the greatness within. TJ Hoisington is the co-founder of Dunn Hoisington Leadership International.


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