Goleman notes that for his book Focus: The hidden driver of Excellence, he interviewed Richard Boyatzis, a professor and neurologist who tracked brain activity to find the best coaching practices. “Talking about your positive goals and dreams activates brain centres that open you up to new possibilities. But if you change the conversation to what you should do to fix yourself, it closes you down,” Boyatzis says in the book.
Boyatzis’s research found that positive interviews about goals triggered people’s reward centre and released dopamine, the chemical responsible for feeling pleasure. But negative interviews that focused on problems and criticism did the exact opposite, releasing anxiety and making the interviewees defensive and unable to focus on how to improve themselves.
Appraisals or performance reviews are not a time to coddle employees. They are an opportunity to provide honest feedback and encourage team members to improve in areas they are struggling. To do that effectively, there needs to be a balance of positive and negative. In Boyatzis’s words: “You need the negative focus to survive, but a positive one to thrive. You need both but in the right ratio.”
How do you use appraisals to help your team members improve their performance at your company? How often do you engage with your employees to allow them express their dreams and goals?