Punishing a behavior is not enough to help a person change. Lincoln High's program teaches us two things that need to be remembered if a punishment—in any setting—is to be effective:
1. Seek understanding.
Just like the faculty at Lincoln High, your first priority before doling out punishment should be to try and understand what circumstances contributed to the behavior in the first place. Speak privately to the offender, so that he or she will have the space to speak candidly. Whether family problems, being overcommitted, or a simple lapse in judgment contributed to the negative behavior, your exploring these factors is an act of empathy, and does not mean that you condone the mistake or plan to look the other way. Your show of understanding and the guidance that you provide as a result of knowing everything about the situation will go a long way in helping the offender avoid a similar mistake in the future.
2. Recognize the "red zone."
Too often in the workplace, punishment comes in the form of a public reprimand or berating, usually involving an impulsive and emotional response by an upset manager. This strategy may make the manager feel good, but it does little to reduce the chance of encountering the same behavior in the future. Instead, public scolding generates a stress response that prevents the offender from absorbing information. Principal Jim Sporleder of Lincoln High School utilizes a zone system (red, yellow, green) to identify when people are able to take in information that will help them to learn and improve. Lashing out at offenders puts them instantly into the red zone, if they aren't there already. It is thus vital to recognize when people are in the red zone, and to give them some time to calm down. Otherwise, your message will fall on deaf ears. Septempber 2013
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.
Dr. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the cofounder of TalentSmart, the world's leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training, serving more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies. His bestselling books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. Dr. Bradberry has written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review.