An Unusual Example of the Power of Positive Feedback from Johnnie Walker

Positive feedback is a powerful thing.

It can turn ill-tempered toddlers into angels. It can transform couch potatoes into recreational athletes. It can motivate an underperforming team to achieve lofty goals.

But you may be wondering:

What does positive feedback really look like? What specific things can you do to keep your staff motivated without succumbing to Michael Scott-esque high fives and hugs?

Remind them that there’s more to success than just hard work.

That’s what Johnnie Walker suggests.

Yes, as in the world-famous distiller of the most widely distributed Scotch whiskies in the world. That Johnnie Walker.

In a recent rebranding overhaul, the company commissioned University of California at Berkeley-trained psychologist and scientist Matt Killingsworth for a series of “joynomics” experiments. The task: Study the connection between happiness and success.

In one experiment involving golfers, researchers discovered that small doses of verbal encouragement can be the key to helping people succeed.

Encourage your employees to believe in themselves.

When you help employees find joy in the tasks at hand—instead of simply pushing them toward the big goal and correcting mistakes along the way—you give them the courage to believe in themselves and their abilities to keep going.

To put it in perspective, think of the marathoner who has people waiting at the finish line but no one to see or cheer him on at mile 13. It would be psychologically more difficult to maintain a steady pace, right?

In one joynomics experiment documented on YouTube, researchers put this theory to the test. Golf instructors were first told to give students neutral or negative feedback when hitting blue golf balls. They were then instructed to offer words of reassurance each time a student swung at an orange ball. The latter involved simple praises such as “great shot” and “much better.”

The result? Scores improved remarkably when orange balls were used, with a 45% average increase in accuracy.

“As it turns out,” says the narrator, “the more we believe in our ability to succeed, the more likely it is that we will.”

We believe in the strength of praise so much that we built features into our online standup software to support it. As it turns out, Johnnie Walker provides inspiration beyond holiday staff events and happy hours. The joynomics experiment (inspired by the brand’s new tagline, “Joy will take you further”) is a great example that can be applied to team leadership, too.

When in doubt, offer a few quick words of positive reinforcement. You’ll give your team some powerful motivation.

Unite your team with daily standups, make progress visible, and reach goals faster—all in minutes a day.