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When Praise Leads to Performance

Posted by Jessica LaFave on September 20, 2016

Did praise come up today? Here's how to do it right- As much as we may appreciate the effort of those we work with, expressing this deliberately is not always a first instinct, or something we're even totally comfortable with. Never the less, most of us have experienced what a great source of motivation giving and receiving honest praise can be. That's why we've compiled the top five tips on giving motivation-inspiring praise to your employees and colleagues. When it comes to work, this has an effect beyond the passing compliment. 

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1 – Praise effort, commitment and goal-orientated behavior. Not results.

There are generally two schools of thought regarding talent. Some believe that talent and competencies are essentially innate- reserved only for a lucky few. Phrases like “That turned out great. You’re really talented!” or, “Amazing that you never practice, but still play soccer so well” may be well intended- but the effect is often detrimental. They assume that excellent performance is a result of natural-born talents.

Should results for once not be ideal, the person may then ask themselves- Does this mean I’m actually not very talented after all?

 With the belief that talent is either something you do or don’t have- the person may give up all together. They come to believe themselves helpless in developing whatever skill was missing.

 When you focus your praise on hard work and behaviors that demonstrate a commitment to pursuing a specific goal, rather than exclusively the result- you encourage the opposite effect. It supports the belief that abilities can be learned and trained and that initial failure is not a reason to abandon something. Cliché as it may sound- mistakes are indeed steps on the path to success. Encouraging growth will ultimately lead to better performance.

2 – Be specific!

Of course, time is precious. But it’s still important to take a moment and tailor the praise you give- You want it to be honest and specific, not superficial. Sentences like “Super!” or “Well done!” are too general. Perhaps better than nothing- but still not precise enough to really encourage what you’re seeking. Make it clear which behavior you want to praise. Doing so encourages that it’ll be continued. During meetings you can mention results or refer to corporate values to support your feedback.  

This way you address two core necessities in leadership: You motivate your employee, and secondly, you demonstrate what kind of behavior you want to see more of.

3 – Be honest!

Unless you genuinely mean what you’re saying, don’t say it at all. Dishonesty is picked up on easier than you might think, and will be strongly counterproductive. The feeling that you’re not being taken seriously is hugely demotivating for most of us. Besides demotivating your team, you also hurt your own credibility. In case you’re not able to think of anything honestly praiseworthy to say about someone, it may be that you’re holding onto to disappointments from the past. Try to behave as if you’re starting from a clean slate. This may leave space for you to start noticing things that are praiseworthy.

4 – Forget the feedback sandwich!

A feedback sandwich surrounds a piece of critic with praise. The intention is to point out room for improvement without demotivating the employee. The trouble is that people begin to anticipate critic anytime they hear praise. So although you intend to soften the blow of negative feedback, you worse take away from the enjoyment of praise. Reserve praise for when you’re really confident and genuine about what you’re saying. This is the only way it’ll promote motivation.

In case you have an example to mention that somehow didn’t lead to acceptable results, it’s better to reserve a time to deliver only constructive criticism.

 5 – Pay attention to context- and whether or not the recipient is comfortable.

Some of us love public praise, while others squirm so uncomfortably from watchful gazes that we barely hear what’s being said. Be mindful of what character type you’re dealing with when you offer praise. If your colleague seems like someone who is motivated by having everyone know about their success, by all means- deliver it during the next all-hands meeting. There are benefits of public praise that extend beyond the party receiving it- It can encourage mutual praise amongst team members and ultimately impact corporate identity. But if your colleague is noticeably uncomfortable with public mentions, find a private time to deliver the good news so that they can truly receive and enjoy it.

Our praise to you: Great that you read this article and showed interest in how to give effective praise and motivate your employees and coworkers. Praise is very effective!  Work to develop an honest praise culture in your team. 

 

Topics: Management & Leadership

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