Saturday, March 22, 2014

Show “Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR)” towards your team

Unconditional Positive Regard”, a term used by Carl Rogers, father of humanistic approach to psychology,  is complete support and acceptance of a person no matter what the person says or does.

How UPR helps at work

UPR establishes a deep bond between an individual and his manager. And as long as manager is fair and doesn’t let relationships come in the way of his professional conduct, UPR can do wonders. Let’s see how:

a)      UPR helps improve performance - One of the factors that plays an important role in an individual’s performance is the ability of his manager to provide “timely” and “relevant” feedback AND in an individual’s ability to “absorb” that feedback. However simple these terms may sound, they have a profound impact on performance and yet they are rarely practiced.

  • Relevant – Relevant feedback is all about providing specific feedback on issues that may sometimes look trivial e.g. issue with written communication like emails or improper handling of  crucial situations or even certain words used in meetings. Most managers do not provide this specific feedback but generally hold such behavior against the employee’s readiness to take on bigger roles. UPR creates an environment where a manager feels compelled to share such feedback because she knows that lack of feedback is eventually going to harm the employee. Since the manager begins to associate her success & failure with the success & failure of the employee, UPR creates an open environment.
  • Timely – Feedback must be given regularly, typically very close to the observance of the behavior itself. Timely feedback also makes it more “relevant”. E.g. we often find ourselves providing immediate feedback to our loved ones at home knowing that they know our unconditional affection & concern for their well-being & success. It is the same concern that drives the behavior at work. UPR creates a strong professional bond that facilitates continuous flow of mutually beneficial discussion.
  • Absorb – We all hear but we absorb only the part that we believe in or buy-in. Absorption ensures that the feedback isn’t lost but is put into practice. UPR creates trust that enables the employee to be open to feedback from his manager because of the credibility the manager develops in the employee’s mind. E.g. conversations, with managers with whom I enjoyed UPR, always left an impact on me not because others did not have a meaningful conversation with me but the fact that every word in UPR situation is seriously absorbed.

b)      UPR helps identify “accurate” issues impacting employees.
  • Accurate – Often issues manifest themselves in other ways. E.g. if  I was upset at specific feedback I received from my manager and in turn ended up reprimanding a member of my team who tried to be innovative, it’s not the innovation that was the problem, it was my perception of unfair treatment by my manager that caused my behavior. Issue with such manifestations is that it makes it almost impossible to diagnose the problem. UPR creates an environment where it makes very easy for people to share the areas of their concern much more specifically without feeling awkward or embarrassed.

How is UPR established

UPR clearly creates desired environment at work that automatically improves motivation and hence productivity. Now the question is how do you create UPR ? In my opinion UPR can be created when you are able to earn respect from the employee without your power or position. Respect is typically earned by the following ways:
  • Value system alignment. Since individual’s value system could vary, its best to align team with organization’s value system. This works particularly well in organizations that hold value system in high regard and where it is actually practiced and not just preached.
  • Trust & Fairness – Create an environment where the team feels that their manager is fair. Fairness requires mutually agreed & transparently visible criteria for performance management & appraisals. Sense of fairness creates trust.
  • Say what you do and do what you say – Manager needs to be consistent with actions & words
  • Commitment – You show commitment and you will get commitment and if you don’t get despite you showing then you can demand it without being seen unreasonable or unfair. Be wary of those managers who expect the team to slog but aren’t prepared to jump in.
UPR at home is far more prevalent than at work, especially in a marriage. Talking about marriage, try telling your spouse that “no matter what you say or do, I will support you always and no matter who is at fault, I will the one to say sorry”. This statement alone can solve most of your marital discords in less than 5 seconds. But then don’t forget to walk the talk which of course if going to take much longer than few seconds.