(First published in AUGI World Magazine – June 2016)
It does not have to be some grand achievement to open the door to a compliment. It can be the small things, like how they phrased a statement. When someone gives corrective feedback to another without demeaning them… that is praiseworthy. When someone offers help to get the job done to another, then it is praiseworthy. When someone passes on assistance via quick instruction, that might deserve some applause.
Don’t praise ordinary performance
In a desire to praise, do not just start admiring average work. People are expected to do their jobs and to do them well. Small tributes should not be given when people are just doing their work. They are reserved for when someone goes above or beyond. Or when someone improves or displays positive traits that you want to reinforce.
Be Timely. Praise should be delivered at the time of the event, or when you notice it, or very soon after. Don’t let the opportunity pass. I have done this so many times. I delay or forget to offer a compliment and then time slips away and it never happens. Oh how I wish I had grabbed the opening and offered praise. Since consistent top behavior is often sporadic in people, I have missed opportunities that faded away.
Be Direct. Pull the person aside and deliver a direct commendation and appreciation for their efforts. Get to the point and tell them that you appreciate their efforts. Focus the conversation on just this message. They did a superior job and you noticed.
Praise in public and/or private. Your environment will define the call on this one. Sometimes it is good to praise someone in a group. Getting the accolades in an environment where others can hear reinforces the appreciation. I strive to provide positive feedback in larger groups of people since it also reinforces the message of what is appreciated. But sometimes it might deflate others. If you are stingy with your compliments, others might think that they have done great work without receiving recognition and scowl. You could mix a brief public thank you with a private, more detailed conversation later.
Be specific. Never just say, “Frank, you are doing a good job. Keep up the good work”. If Frank is unable to connect to the exact effort he gave that generated the praise then the accolades are not as impactful. He may have just goofed off for the entire morning and surfed the web. He will think you are out of touch and that he can glide for days. Dive into the exact things that you appreciate. Rather say, “Frank, when you delivered early on the Thompson project, the client was impressed and so was I. Thank you for going the extra mile”. Frank will hear this message… Early delivery is great, the client was happy, the boss noticed and appreciated it.
Make it personal. Start by saying their name. Give them no room for not thinking you are talking about them. Do this when you are in a crowd or alone with them. Always start by using their name. Make eye contact. Most people will shy away when you give a compliment. Look the person directly in the eye. Stop and say something that makes them look at you. I usually use a question like, “Do you realize how effective that was?” by asking a question, they will tend to look at you in response. Maintain that eye contact.
Make it stand-alone. Not an introduction to a discussion on improvement. Do not give a compliment and then lead right into a correcting conversation. Do not tack on “and we can do even better – right?” at the end. Do not tell someone they achieved a great thing with this, but need to work on that. A mixed message like this will have them walking away focusing on the reproof and not on the praise.
Be honest and real. Just like making eye contact is crucial, delivering a heart felt compliment is also. It has to be real. Contrived admiration is very thin and most folks will realize that you don’t really mean it. It needs to address honestly the efforts of the person that resulted in very positive outcomes. Include words like “really” and “obvious” as in “Pam, I really appreciate your planning on the new project. It is obvious to everyone that you save us time and money”.
More in the next post…
Part One  – Part Three