Catch People Doing Good, Don’t Just Call Them Out for Making Mistakes

By Herman Pool
In Marketing
October 23, 2012

Kat / Vertical Axion


It’s simple: leaders who are the kings and queens of finding faults in their employees encourage a company culture of bloodless execution. However, the leaders that celebrate even the smallest of good acts and positive connections give everyone in their office the permission to impact their fellow human beings in a more meaningful way. This includes other people in the office and, just as importantly, potential clients.

Commerce Bank, now TD bank, was one of the first companies to fully implement a strategy they call “retailtainment” – they stopped focusing on just providing good service and started surprising, engaging, and entertaining their customers. Small acts of kindness have become the backbone of their highly successful company, and even the less touchy-feely editors of The Economist had to complement their strategies.

But how can a company afford to focus so much on the human aspect? Most of it is reinforcement of positive behavior instead of punishment when someone falls short. Although large mistakes are talked about and corrected, the focus is on the good instead of the bad.

The executive of TD bank was once asked about their policies. “It’s too easy to catch people screwing things up,” he said. “What fuels this company are the high-fives, the wacky stuff we do to engage people in the business, to make them feel good. It’s the job of every manager and officer of the bank to go out and catch people doing it right.” Every employee carries a card, and the card has places for gold star stickers. The stickers are given out when a person in a leadership position catch a front-line employee doing something good. As the stickers accumulate, an employee becomes eligible for prizes. TD bank managers give out over 100,000 stickers every single year.

TD bank isn’t the only company that does this and manages to pull it off, and it doesn’t matter if we apply the concept to a gigantic banking chain like TD or a small business with six employees. The lesson stays the same: if we create environments where people strive to act their best, we are going to have the ability to focus less on fixing problems and highlight what’s going on right instead. People love to work in this kind of environment, and that alone will bring more success to your company.

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