The Importance of Giving Praise
I wrote this after a conversation with someone who has made many positive contributions towards achieving his organisation´s objectives. Unfortunately, those contributions have come to be more expected than appreciated. Recently he made a mistake and in truth it was a big mistake that had a negative compounding effect. However, it was exactly that. A mistake. Nothing that couldn't be corrected with the right guidance.
It reminded me of the old saying “once I did bad and that I heard ever. Twice I did good but that I heard never.”
Why it's important to Give Praise
Those people who receive appreciation for their efforts are more motivated than those who believe that their efforts are going unnoticed. They become more actively engaged in tasks because they believe that what they are doing is having a positive impact.
Fosters good working relationships
When someone receives praise it makes them feel good and there is a natural tendency to want to experience the same feelings again. People will want to help because they know that their efforts are appreciated. The more intrinsic rewards people receive the more they will want to help. The end result is a collaborative team effort of people working towards a common goal.
Obstacles With Praise
Giving praise is something that needs to be sincere but at the same time it´s a skill. Thankfully it's a skill that can be learned. When not given enough appropriate praise, people can become demoralised. When given too much false praise, people will start to question your motives.
It´s an important area where may strive to succeed but with so many obstacles in the way of giving constructive, genuine praise, it's little wonder that many people find it difficult.
Norms and Standards
Unfortunately some organisational norms are ones of unreasonably high expectations, with little positive, constructive feedback. Of course, having high standards is a positive driving force but a driving force that will decelerate rapidly without adequate training and constructive feedback. At the appropriate time and place, praise can be a vital part of that feedback.
Perfection is something that is very rarely attained. Many times we don't need perfection, we need good enough. That's not an excuse for substandard work. It´s just that if you constantly seek perfection, you will be constantly chasing something that you are unlikely find. Many projects can reach the stage of good enough to roll out and then modified as things unfold.
Don't judge people based on how good they are compared to how good you are. You might have ten times the experience and ability that they have. Instead judge them on how good they are compared with how good they could be with some expert guidance, training and coaching from yourself.
Praise doesn't have to be delivered in a formal setting. If your workload is heavy and your schedule leaves little time for one to ones, set yourself time to walk around and make your presence felt in a positive way. Failing that, a phone call might not be the best way but it certainly beats no praise at all.
How to Give Memorable Praise
“Well done yesterday” or “good job” are nice comments to hear and this kind of praise does has its place, in that it´s better than nothing. However, your comments will have more of an impact if you can use specific incidents:
“Thank you for making the last minute changes to those PowerPoint slides. The presentation went much more smoothly with those changes.”
The more regular, sincere praise you give, the more your team members will understand your vision. If this is a new team, it gives you the perfect opportunity to create a cultural norm of regular appropriate praise.
Of course feedback will not always be positive, there will be behaviours and performances that fall short of the mark but the positive praise should outweigh the negative feedback.
Show and Tell
Sometimes the biggest compliment you can give someone is to ask them to lead a project. It might be something that they have never done before and you are taking them out of their comfort zone. Being trusted to take a lead role is a huge compliment and is one of the most positive forms of praise someone can receive.
Not everyone craves the limelight of having their achievements broadcasted to everyone. Some people shy away from public praise and prefer a thank you over a coffee. Not everyone is motivated by the same means. Be sure to find out how your team members like to receive praise and give it accordingly.
Spread Your Praise
Think about the dynamics of the team. There are often unsung heroes who are crucial to the overall objective but are not at the forefront of delivery.
No Strings Attached
Be mindful of giving praise and asking for something in the same conversation. It's ok to do this if it part of an ongoing development to meet business needs. However it can come across as shallow and that you are being nice simply to curry favour. The last thing you need is your team talking about you saying that you are only nice when you want something. Keep your praise sincere and genuine.
One Final Thought
We give praise, not for an immediate fix but with the aim that the person being praised will find the motivation to want to improve. It is this new found motivation that helps build a solid foundation for promoting a learning culture and constant improvement throughout the organisation. Once this culture is adopted in its entirety, the route to achieving organisational objectives becomes clearer.
Things will very rarely be perfect and in many cases if your are expecting employees to complete tasks with the same meticulous approach as yourself, you will almost certainly be disappointed. The truth is that as a manager or leader, not everyone in your team will have the same standards as you.
If you can accept this, you have a great chance to move forward together.
Do you have any experiences of when positive praise has changed your outlook?
Do you have any experiences of how lack of praise has affected you?