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Praise Your Way to Success

The Underestimated Value of "Thank You"

On July 25, Jason Bridges will guest host “Coaching at The Corner” at 8:30 at Mitchell’s Book Corner. The title of his chat is "Appreciation: How To Complement Your Way to Success." I thought this article might entice you to join in his one hour coaching conversation…

Praise can be a real energizer and motivator. Praise lifts people up, and helps them know what behaviors are appreciated and are desired to be repeated. William James wrote "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated."

In the hot months of July here on Nantucket, we are all looking for an edge we can use to promote the success of our businesses. Here is the most simple, yet not used strategy.

Just because praising others may sound easy, all praises may not all be equally effective. Here are some thoughts and ideas that you might use to give praise that is meaningful and energizing:

Be on the lookout for opportunities to praise. We are so busy these days that many times we miss the simplest and least expensive way to acknowledge the achievements and progress of others. I like to challenge people to seek praiseworthy moments. One idea is to do this just before the end of your workday -- to think back on the day and take initiative to acknowledge work well done.

Praise must be sincere. The only praise that works is that which is heartfelt. You need to believe that the accomplishment is truly worth acknowledgment. Otherwise, it will appear manipulative, and carry no credibility. Sincere praise is the only option.

Distinguish between praise and flattery. Flattery focuses on what someone has no control over and did nothing to earn, while praise focuses on character, performance, or behavior. An example of flattery might be "Your red hair makes you stand out in a crowd." Praise might be "thank you for your thorough analysis of our project, your recommendation was thorough and on point.”

Praise when you have nothing to gain. By making praise and "and" in and of itself, you give it higher priority, rather than having it be a transitional "oh, by the way" thought.

Personalize your praise. Don't be afraid to use the word "you." Instead of saying "good job," consider saying "you came up with a great recommendation to fix that problem -- thanks."

Praise the behavior you want to see repeated. Instead of criticizing something done wrong, consider finding people doing something right. This is a way of emphasizing the behavior you want to see. Instead of nagging a child to clean up his or her room, praise and acknowledged the time that their room is in the condition you seek. Instead of criticizing the worker the two times he or she is late for work, acknowledge their repeated arrival for work 15 minutes early.

Praise can be private or public. One on one comments about a job well done can be very energizing. Additionally, public comments in a department meeting, on a task force, or in an informal group can also be motivating.

Be specific. There is nothing worse than a general statement or a general praising to a group. It holds little meaning. Instead of saying "you all did a great job," you might consider outlining the results, and pointing out specifically how each individual contributed to that result. Specifics are very important in giving any praise. What was it that you liked about her handling of the presentation? What specifically did he do to calm the customer down? What were the specific words that were used that accomplished such a positive result? The more specific you are, the more impacting the praise will be.

Giving praise can be one of the simplest and most motivating actions any of us can do. It takes little time, and costs nothing but a small piece of your time. Unfortunately praise often falls into the category of "important but not urgent." And we lose too many great opportunities to give credit where it is due. Praise can be a key to better relationships. If you make a point to notice praiseworthy efforts, performance, or results, you can just watch the quality of performance and energy grow.

What unique appreciations have you used or witnessed?