Increasing the Temperature of Your Team
Several years ago I read an article about an Air Force instructor who taught pilots of fighter-jets how to dog fight. He opined that rewarding good piloting skills never worked but punishment almost always did. His belief was supported by the experience that praise following a good maneuver was often followed by poorer performance while criticizing a substandard maneuver was often followed by better performance. Seemed like a logical conclusion.
But hidden in the weeds of this logic was a little know dynamic: The law of regression to the mean. Simply put every action, every changeable physical condition will revert to the average on its own. Even if the instructor had said nothing the results would have been the same: The pilot with the excellent performance would have done worse on the next try while the pilot who performed poorly would have almost always done better.
Think of it this way: Ice will revert to a liquid state in a room with a mean temperature of 72 degrees. Steam will do the same in that same environment. Whether hot or cold the liquid state of water will prevail.
So how can we get better as a team? We have to raise the mean. A sauna maintains its steam because the mean temperature is higher; a freezer maintains its water in solid form because the temperature is always below freezing.
Now we’re not saying to boil or freeze your team members but we are saying the quality of their performance will rise as the average performance level rises. This is what makes great sports’ teams great and stay great. This is how phenomenal financial success is acquired and maintained. The secret is to increase the “temperature” of quality gradually, allowing for the natural dips of error while push the trend to higher and higher levels.
Compliment, encourage, instruct and mentor your team members. Expect downturns and recoveries as you increase the temperature of your team.