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High Fives: Do Too Many Cheapen the Motivational Impact?

Paul Hebert had a great post the other day at Fistful of Talent related to Simon Cowell of American Idol fame. I thought Paul's questions regarding the impact of negative feedback in a generally positive environment were thought provoking.  

Included in Paul's thoughts?  The theory that since Simon is a beacon of negative feedback in a sea of generally positive, nice thoughts - his feedback is actually the most important of any of the judges.  I agree with that thought - who doesn't wait to hear what Simon has to say?  I also believe that because Simon is usually negative, the rare occasions when he has something positive to say are among the most important in the show.

Go read Paul's post if you haven't already.  Like now.

Paul's thoughts begged another question in my eyes.  If a person is consistently, overwhelmingly positive in very real way, is the impact of positive feedback cheapened?  Case in point, I was out in Phoenix in March for a Suns game, and after seeing it live, I can tell you that Steve Nash (guard for the Suns) is probably the most positive person I've ever seen.  Even when he's not in the game, he's a cheerleader, laying out high fives everywhere.

Take a guess how many high fives Nash lays out in a game.  Then, watch the video below to get the answer.  Then, hit me with a comment if you think the elevated praise Nash lays out cheapens its affect. (thanks to TrueHoop for the tip to the video).


Bob Weigand

If you take a behavioral approach to this, and why not there are people involved, clearly the data say's that rewards are more effective when two things happen. First, the timing of the reward is random and secondly the person being rewarded does not know what the reward will look like. So, Nash being a constant cheerleader on the court beg's this question...Is he more helpful by choosing his moments when to reward and how he rewards players(i.e. verbal comments should be different depending on the player). The theory would support this kind of response to his teammates if he wants to be the most effective.


LOVE THIS! So funny! When I first started reading your post (as someone who watches zero NBA and was unfamiliar with Steve Nash's hive five addiction), I thought "Blast! Now I am going to have to go back on the comment I left on Paul Hebert's post yesterday."

I stated that we shouldn't celebrate mediocrity and recognition should be given when truly deserved and not just for doing the job you are supposed to do.

I thought I might have to go back on my comment because before watching the video - I thought "there can't be too many hive fives in sports - it's boosting morale, making people feel like they did a good job, etc."

After watching the video...I'm back to supporting "no need to celebrate mediocrity." Wow. It's like a reflex. It's like closing your eyes when you sneeze. There's not even any emotion behind it. No harm though in this case, right? For him, it seems more of a quirk. However, nobody will EVER walk away from a Steve Nash high five thinking "Wow - I must have really done a good job! I got a high five from Steve Nash!"

Great post!

Hinda Incentives

I think "the Todd" from Scrubs would disagree...BLOG FIVE!


IF the “recognition” is genuine then how can it occur too often? I agree with Ginger that the mediocre is not to be celebrated. However, if (as I read Ginger’s post) “doing the job you are supposed to do” = mediocre then the expectations of the role are set too low.
Set high expectations – be that for customer service reps, programmers, or power forwards - and celebrate the hell out of people that deliver desired results in the desired manner.
As to the frequency of Nash’s recognition efforts –I’ll take an abundance of high fives over the destruction of team chemistry shared in your 1/20/10 post on Recognition on Small Scale: It's Not About Rewards, It's About Team Chemistry...

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