The best way to praise your staff

I once worked for a boss for whom every task I turned in was ‘Fantastic!’ All comments were along the lines of ‘Good on ya!’ Compliments are great but when you’re deluged in them, they become meaningless. So meaningless that I began to suspect this boss didn’t know the difference between a job well done and a job poorly done. (Between you and me, I don’t think he did!)

But let’s face it — without some praise, people’s confidence withers and they think the quality of their work doesn’t matter. At the risk of sounding like a bumper sticker: Praise is like sunlight to the human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it. (Actually, Jess Lair said that, a professor and leader in the self-help movement.)

So how to avoid turning your team members off with your words of praise? Here are three principles to follow:

  1. Be genuine. The brain has 100 billion neurons, or brain cells, and 10 billion of them are what is known technically as ‘B. S. detectors’. People quickly sense insincere praise and habitual ‘Good on ya’s’.
  2. Avoid empty flattery by commenting on things people have control over. Flattery is about characteristics people can’t control, like their height, while praise is about something they do, like keeping fit.
  3. Be specific by saying what you value or appreciate about what you’re praising; don’t simply say, ‘That was great’, but ‘That was great because …’. This also lets the person know that it’s worth their time and trouble to do the same again.

Praise builds performance. It brings out the best in people. In fact, it stimulates the brain and releases neuropeptides and endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemicals — in both the giver and the receiver. So be liberal with your praise, but be discerning and follow the above three guidelines.

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