Effective praise goes beyond making coworkers feel good. If it’s done right, it can improve morale, motivation and productivity. But it has to be specific in order to produce those results and not come across as being insincere.
Remember when you were a child and your mother said something like, “Be good” or “You did great”? Did her words help you to know how to behave or exactly what you did that could get you the same attention again? What if your boss says “Good Job!”? Will you be able to improve your performance by doing more of the same thing that got his/her attention this time?
Effective praise has some of the following characteristics:
- Is delivered spontaneously and promptly.
- Specifies the particulars of the accomplishment.
- Suggests close attention to the person’s accomplishment.
- Rewards the attainment of specified performance criteria (measurable goals).
- Provides information about the person’s competence or the value of their accomplishment.
- Gets the person thinking about their problem-solving abilities.
- Uses prior accomplishments as the context for describing present accomplishments.
- Is given in recognition of noteworthy effort and improvement on or success with a difficult task.
- Attributes success to effort and ability, implying that similar success is expected in the future.
Obviously, offering praise that really counts because it changes or improves behavior takes some thought. First and foremost, be specific when you offer a compliment. Instead of saying someone wrote the “best blog ever,” give an example: “I think what you said in your blog about methods of negotiating with debtors gives other collection attorneys very profitable ideas.” It won’t work if every compliment you give is “good job!” Take a minute and think about why it was a good job, then offer the compliment: “You really helped calm that client down by not getting upset and by focusing on finding a solution.”
If you’re going to give a compliment, take the time to do it right. If you’re with the person, look them in the eye and make sure you have their full attention. Also consider whether this is a time when your words of praise would be well-received in front of others. Not everyone likes to be praised in public, but some do.
Everyone likes to hear kind words. Praise nourishes the mind and the spirit during both good and bad times in the workplace. In his self-awareness workshop, “The Value of Praise in the Workplace,” Guy Farmer says, “Leaders and supervisors benefit greatly from praising their employees. People are willing to do more for you if they think you care.” He gives these tips for incorporating praise into your workplace:
- Praise each person once a day if possible.
- Praise positive performance not physical attributes.
- Catch people doing something well and praise then.
- Don’t expect praise back, give and let go.
- Don’t worry about looking weak or insincere.
- Keep praising until you’re an expert at it.
- Once you’re an expert, teach others how to do it.
- Make praise an ongoing activity.
- Praise people you don’t like or know very well, too.
- Praise yourself.
Motivational speaker and author, Wally Bock said, “Praise is your power tool for helping people maintain effort, energy, and growth. It’s your most effective supporter of positive change. Most of us do not praise enough.”
Even though I work from home in Utah, it didn’t take me long to figure out that sincere praise is an important part of the corporate culture at The National List of Attorneys. Every staff member I come in contact with motivates me to put in more effort and do an even better job next time. We would love to learn even more about effective praise from your examples. Please share any examples of effective praise that you’ve received on or off the job by entering a comment on today’s NL Insider.