Reward and Redirect-Part-I

Reward and Redirect-Part-I

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

A world-renowned management expert and trainer claims that the two most powerful tools of management and training are "reward" and "redirection." Accentuate the positive behavior by rewarding it and reduce the negative by redirecting it.

Ken Blanchard, the author of The One Minute Manager fame is one of the best teachers in the world on human relations. So, I couldn't wait to read his latest book, Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships. You too can use the wisdom he acquired from whale trainers, to help people you are responsible for and they may accomplish things beyond your expectations.

If you ever visited the killer whale show in San Diego, you might have wondered to yourself, "Wow! How on earth do they train a killer whale to perform such amazing tricks?" "Wes Kingsley," a company manager, asks just that question in the book. The answer Wes receives from the trainers is intriguing: "The whales taught us how train them."

Referring to 'Shamu," the gigantic male killer whale, "Dave" a trainer says, "When you're dealing with an eleven thousand pound animal who doesn't speak English, you do a lot of learning and develop the patience it takes.

The technique of teaching the killer whales to perform those incredible tricks can be summed up in one little sentence: "Accentuate the positive behavior and redirect the negative."

Here are the major steps to implement this approach:
1. Play with them. Build their trust. Love to pal around with them. Respect them. Convince them you mean no harm. You are a friend of them.
2. Pay lot of attention to what whales like. Never assume you know what they like or what motivates them. For example, food is not the only thing whales like; they like to be touched and rubbed too.
3. Pay lot of attention to what they do right or "near right" and reward it immediately.
4. Ignore what a whale does wrong, does incorrectly or doesn't do what you ask of it. Why ignore? Because, the more attention you pay to a behavior, the more it will be repeated.
5. What you think about a whale and expect from a whale has a direct bearing on what the whale does. Whales just like human beings, can "live down" to your expectations.
6. Channel their energy to something they like or something you want them to do.

Back to the killer whale show, how does one teach a whale to jump over ropes?

A trainer starts by placing a rope underneath the water at a height at which the whale can either pass under it or over it, as it chooses, without much effort. If the whale swims under the rope, the trainer does nothing. However, every time the whale swims over the rope, the trainer feeds it a fish for reward. Guess what? The whale begins to think to itself, "Hum! Every time I swim over that rope, I get to eat that yummy fish."

Once the trainer recognize that the whale has learned about the relationship between jumping the rope and receiving a fish, the trainer begins to raise the rope in increments. Lo and behold, the whale is jumping the rope higher and higher.

Sometimes, a killer whale gets a fish and other times a "rub down." They like that rub down a lot. They know when you genuinely like them and respect them. If you are you are insincere with a whale, it knows. Dave, the whale trainer says, "Whales can feel the insincerity in your hands when you give them a rub down. When the animal knows you're not interested, he won't want to work with you. He'll swim away."

"Whale Done!" is Blanchard's pun for "Well Done!" It sure works when trainers are sincere in their respect and love for those they teach.

Just as a rubdown is a significant reward for a whale, so is a "verbal touch" such as, "Nice going!" or "Good job!" for human beings. Sure, candies, cookies, toys or other materialistic rewards have their value for children. But, "attaboy" and "attagirl," play and fun and time together with your child can go a long way in helping your child excel.

Recognize and praise a behavior immediately. Be specific in stating what a person does right or nearly right. Encourage him or her to do the good work.

Praise always works better than blame. When you see an inappropriate behavior, remember, redirection is always better than a negative response.

Instead of using the "Gotcha" approach, catching a person doing something wrong, use the "Whale Done!" approach, catch them doing things right.

Attention is to behavior what sunshine is to seeds. Whatever you pay attention to grows. Then why not pay attention to positive behaviors and see them growing?

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Copyright 2002, Mind Publications 


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