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The Power of Praise

Maybe 30 years ago I confronted a boss and asked her, why don’t we do more about letting people know when they’re performing well? Her response was, “Assume you’re doing well unless I tell you otherwise”. She was a horrible boss and one of the main reasons I decided to dedicate my education and efforts to leadership development.

Let me ask you a question: I’m sure most (maybe all) of us have received the occasional email saying, “Thanks, you did a great job.” What is the first thing you do with that? Be honest with yourself. The first thing? I’ll tell you what I generally do: I email it to my wife. Essentially saying, “See? Someone loves me!”

We’ve all heard, and research supports it: positive recognition is MUCH MORE POWERFUL than negative feedback. Ken Blanchard pointed this out in his famous book, The One Minute Manager. It only takes a minute to let someone know they’re doing something you appreciate.

This is especially important for new employees. I even make a point of using my calendar software to set reminders at random times so I remember to let new people know how they’re doing, and like Blanchard, I look to find those positive efforts I can recognize. I even had one new employee tell me, “I honestly don’t know how you do it, but when I start to doubt myself I always find an encouraging email from you in my inbox.” A few weeks after that, thinking she was texting her husband, she accidentally texted me and said, “I f…ing love this place!”

And that brings up another great “leadership” quality – coach people without them knowing they’re being coached. More on that later. My “homework” for you: catch someone doing something well and let them know! A simple email is fine, a personal discussion is better. Put a copy of that in an email file for the employee so at the end of the review cycle you can review it and remind yourself of how hard they’re working to make you, and the organization, happy.

Think about how you can include regular employee praise in your workforce management routine.


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