Praise–A Powerful Tool for Enhancing Performance

    July 19, 2004

Everyone wants to feel important. That is the highest need we all have. Making people feel important is an essential part of managing people yet sometimes as leaders, we forget this powerful tool we have at our disposal. How effective is your management style when it comes to handing out praise to those you manage? Look through this list and see how many ideas you are not using.

Praise Regularly. Each day, look for opportunities to genuinely pass on praise to those under your supervision. This is not a “fake it until you make it” idea. You must be sincere and the praise should be earned. It may be something as simple as a compliment on how well someone cleaned his or her work area. Walk around your department with a higher awareness of what is going right. Then, acknowledge a job well done on the spot. Then, watch the smiles light up the place.

Provide Written Praise. Not only should you verbalize what is good, take a few extra moments to put your thoughts in writing. Here you should be a bit choosier. Don’t write down every little item. Look for that bright spot in the work place and then, consistently for everyone you manage, place your comments on paper. For that special task that was extremely well done, pass on the praise to your boss. That is a way to provide recognition for that rising star beyond the walls of your department. As a manager, you have an obligation to help strong employees move up the ladder. This is a great motivator as well.
Encourage Risks. How well do you tolerate risks? If you play it too close to the vest and do not encourage your people to experiment and seek better ways of doing things, improvements will be few and growth will be slow. If people give it all they have trying to make departmental procedural improvements yet fail to make it happen, that is a perfect opportunity to praise effort. If Babe Ruth had been afraid to swing at the ball for fear of failure, he would never have hit the many home runs he did. During his peak, he not only lead the league in home runs, he also lead it in strikeouts. His manager was not afraid to encourage effort. And, the Babe was not afraid to take risks. They were a perfect combination.

Pass on compliments received from individuals outside of your department. Occasionally, others will see someone you manage doing an outstanding job and pass that comment on to you. Do you keep such information under wraps or do you pass it on? Let your people know that others see how valuable their contribution is to the entire organization. We can never hear too often that we are doing a good job. It is also very gratifying to know that others outside the department recognize outstanding work as well.

Tell Why. When you pass on a compliment, be sure the individual fully understands what prompted the compliment. By so doing, you re-enforce the behavior you want. The more often you re-enforce a behavior, the more often it will occur. By being genuine and targeting specific behavior, one can tailor work styles and workplace behavior that is best for the individual and the organization.

Extend compliments to activities beyond the workplace. Family matters are very important to workers. When someone you supervise has some praiseworthy activity within his or her family group, don’t miss the opportunity to compliment the accomplishment. Strive to keep up with family activities of your employees. All it takes is a little listening and a few questions to learn much about what is going on in the home of employees. When appropriate, share your pride in the accomplishment. Your employees will appreciate your interest and you will build a stronger bond and commitment from them. The same idea also applies to employees themselves. If they manage to achieve something of importance outside the workplace, let them know you are proud of them.

Don’t talk about others in front of your employees. Engaging in malicious gossip degrades your character and makes your leadership role diminish. If you can talk about others in the presence of employees, why shouldn’t they believe you would talk about them when they are not around? Engaging in such activity sends mixed signals and serves no productive purpose.

Offer praise during evaluation periods. As noted earlier, it is very important to share praise on the spot. However, look for ways to bring praise into the evaluation session with employees. You may simply repeat an earlier compliment or offer a new one. What is important is that you don’t miss a golden opportunity to make what is a stressful event for many employees a more pleasant time.

How do you use praise? What effective technique can you share? Why not pass on your comments at my email address below. I’d enjoy hearing from you. For those special people who do respond, I’ll email you a special message.

Billy Arcement, MEd. is a leadership consultant / professional speaker/ author and President of The Results Group. For questions about this article, call him at 225-677-9426 or email Learn more about his services at 2006 The Results Group.