The Power of Praise

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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’.

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 analysis of our project, your recommendation was thorough and on point.”Praise when you have nothing to gain. By giving praise and praise alone, 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 acknowledgedthe 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.”

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About Author

Marsha Egan

Marsha Egan, CPCU, PCC is CEO of The Egan Group, a Nantucket, Massachusetts-based workplace productivity coaching firm. She is author of Inbox Detox and the Habit of E-mail Excellence. She can be reached at [email protected] or www.MarshaEgan.com. To see Marsha’s blog, visit www.MarshaEgan.com/blog and to listen to her podcast, “Great Points” visit her iTunes channel.

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