GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski
Praise happens when you tell someone they did something wonderful. Praise is virtually free and almost the most powerful force in the universe.
When you tell someone what they did was amazing, they stand three inches taller. Right in front of you, they get taller. They grow. They expand. Don’t believe me? Try it. And bring a ruler.
To deliver praise, you must pay attention. You must invest in what’s going on, you must hear what is said, and watch what is done. Congratulations. Though you have yet to deliver praise, you’ve already differentiated yourself. Next, you must compare the behavior against the norms and recognize a difference. Sure, it’s a simple difference calculation, but it’s a calculation that takes attention and caring, which in today’s rat race are in short supply. Now, you must find words the right words to describe the specialness of the behavior-why it’s different and why it matters. Then, you’ve got to deliver it in a way that is worthy of the specialness.
Deliver praise in public and be specific. This person (use their name) did (say what they did) and it’s important because (and say why it is important). And tell people what you think and feel. They (use their name) did (say what they did) and I feel (e.g., happy, excited, proud) because (tell them why you feel as you do). Feel free to steal that script, but if you do, stick to it because it’s a good one.
A rule: If you don’t praise people, you don’t know what you’re doing.
But here’s the thing about praise. If you fake it, you bring about its opposite. When you fake it, people get smaller and they get angry. They get smaller because they know they are being patronized. And they get angry for the same reason. So, a word of caution. If you deliver paise that’s fake, you will lose all credibility with the recipient and anyone in earshot. And it’s such a violation of their dignity, I don’t know a way to resurrect their trust. In short, if you fake it, it’s over for you.
Another rule: If you have the urge to deliver fake praise, don’t.
Praise is powerful, but in today’s environment is almost extinct. It’s not that praise-worthy behavior is uncommon, rather, the time and attention required to recognize and formally acknowledge praise-worthy behavior is uncommon.
If you want to elevate the performance of a team, praise their behavior. And do it in public. Pay attention and praise. Schedule a meeting, buy the pizza, and praise. Be specific, be genuine, and praise.
Yes, you will spend a lot of money on pizza, and, yes, that is the best return on investment in the universe.
“Alex and his lion friend” by Tambako the Jaguar is marked with CC BY-ND 2.0.
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