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Bringing Out the Best: A book review by Bob Morris

Bringing Out the BestBringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement, Third Edition
Aubrey C. Daniels
McGraw-Hill Education (June 2016)

“The best way to run an organization is also the best way to treat people.” Sherman Roberts

This is the third edition of a book that was first published in 1994. Since then, the global business world has obviously become much more volatile, more uncertain, move complex, and more ambiguous. However, the fact remains – despite all manner of disruptive changes – the healthiest organizations continue to be those with workplace cultures within which mutual respect and mutual trust are most likely to thrive.

It is no coincidence that companies annually ranked among those that are most highly ranked and best to work for are also ranked among those that are most profitable and have the greatest cap value in their industry category. Daniels is spot on when recommending what he views as a practical approach to identifying the behaviors that will produce the desirable outcomes and arrange consequences to positively reinforce them. The details of that approach are best revealed within the narrative, in context.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of his coverage:

o Common sense knowledge vs. scientific knowledge (Pages 14-16)
o Doing nothing (35-36 and 78-82)
o Analyzing antecedents (41-46)
o Negative reinforcement and the illusion of control (57-62)
o Engagement (63-64 and 181-189)
o Kinds of positive reinforcement (66-70)
o Contingency error (85-86 and 154-155)
o Competition (89-92)
o Results (99-106)
o Measurement (109-119)
o Behavioral measures (115-117)
o Feedback (121-122)
o Problem solving model: Ogden Lindsley (129-131)
o Intervention to evaluate performance management (131-136)
o Goals (142-148)
o Reward and recognition programs (149-152)
o Performance matrix (174-1769)
o Technology and behavior reinforcement (191-198)
o Managing by wandering about (220-223)

This is a “must read” for everyone who has supervisory responsibilities in their organization, whatever its size and nature may be. I also think it can be of incalculable value to those involved in collaborative initiatives as well as their team leaders. It should not be astonishing to many (if not most) people — but it is — that reinforcement can have immense power, for better or worse. That is to say, it can make a good relationship much better or it can make a bad relationship intolerable.

Aubrey Daniels provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can prepare almost anyone to apply the power of positive reinforcement in their relationships with others, at work and elsewhere. It all depends, however, on how willing and able — indeed eager — a reader is absorb and digest the material and then develop an appropriate mindset and master the necessary skills to direct that power where it will be of greatest benefit…and have the deepest impact.

These are among his concluding thoughts: “Performance management no psychoanalysis or role-playing. You don’t need to find out what kind of childhood your performers had, what their birth orders were, or how they were raised. This approach accepts people as they are [key point] and deals with the behaviors in the present as a starting point” in what will hopefully become a process of personal growth and professional development.

If your organization is in urgent need of a “precise, scientific approach that works,” look no further.

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