Praise before it’s due

One of the most challenging things to do as a Leader can be to praise your staff when they are doing a good job.  How often do we just see the negative action an employee takes and just ‘gloss over’ what they do right?  A little praise goes a long way and when it’s given before it’s expected, then the impact is exponential.

Let’s look at why praise is so effective.

Firstly, praise helps build up our self-esteem.  Increasing our self-esteem helps build our confidence so knowing we have done a great job and being acknowledged for a job well done increases our confidence.  Think of how your business would be if all your employees were confident doing their jobs.

Secondly, isn’t it nice to be appreciated?  Sometimes just a little acknowledgment of our efforts can go a long way.    I remember several years ago when I was working a lot of overtime in a job – late nights and Saturdays which was a killer.  Even though the overtime pay was great, I was beginning to feel burnt-out and unappreciated.  All it took was for my manager to stop by my desk late one evening and say that they really appreciated the hours I was putting in to get the project done.  Woohoo, I felt on a high that continued ‘til the end of the project and subsequently marked the end of the overtime.  It wasn’t that I needed constant praise, it was more that my manager cared enough to stop by and acknowledge my effort.

A few years back, I was delivering a management development programme in the midlands when one of the participants said that they just couldn’t find anything to praise one of their employees for.

When discussing the employee with the manager, it became apparent that the person was quite capable of fulfilling her tasks but she was just lacking the motivation to carry them out effectively.  When I asked her to list the ‘good things’ the employee did such as completing a report on time and accurately or conducting analysis on a financial report accurately and within the desired time frame, her response was ‘oh she does all those things well, she’s just a sloppy time keeper and spends too much time on personal calls’.  Yes, there were some negative aspects of the employee’s actions which needed to be addressed however, the employee was already carrying out some tasks very well, she just wasn’t getting any praise or recognition for doing them well.  The focus was on the things she wasn’t doing well.

As the programme was run over a couple of weeks, the manager was able to track the good things the employee was doing and started giving her praise for doing so. The result?  Well the employee perked up, improved her performance and actually remarked to the manager that it was the first time that they had ever given them praise and positive feedback!

So, it’s simple enough to do and apply, just follow these simple & quick guidelines when giving praise:

1) Take time out to see what your employees are doing well.  Don’t discount feedback from other sources e.g. emails, co-workers.  Then write it down to make sure you don’t forget any detail later

2) Keep your praise specific, just saying ‘you are doing a great job’ is not enough, you need to pinpoint exactly what they are doing well e.g. ‘the data you have collated for the sales report is very relevant, accurate and up to date’.

3) Make it timely – praise as soon as the action takes place – don’t wait for a few months and then deliver the feedback  ‘do your remember the “X” project we worked on before Christmas?

4) Define the effect and benefits of their action(s) – in this case positively

5) Thank them for their efforts.

Easy?  Then take a moment today and start looking at the things your employees and co-workers do well and then praise them before it’s due!