How to Use Praise Effectively in Business

Posted on | April 1, 2010 | No Comments

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Recently I was coaching an executive who told me that she makes a habit of thanking people effusively. She said that many of her assignments require the cooperation of a team of people, and she wanted some tips on how to engage people in better ways to get the work done.

This executive was using praise as a motivator, which is generally a good idea. However, when I asked her to give me an example of thanking someone, she described an effusive amount of thanks—but presented in a very general way that made it sound as if the team had been doing her a favor.

Her team was not doing her a favor, though—they were completing assignments that were part of their job descriptions. So while my client appreciated the team’s work, her show of appreciation was sending a message that what they were doing was optional—a favor to her. This was creating a disincentive to work!

Appreciation or thanks that work:

1. Make it timely: As close the event as possible so the person has recall of the situation.
2. Make it specific: Tell the person what they did that was helpful. Make it as concrete as possible.
3. Specify the impact: Explain to the person how their help impacted the work or job. Here’s what you did and here’s how it helped.
4. Make some of your feedback about qualities they bring: Sometimes we encounter situations in which it is not what the person does but how they are being that is making a difference. If you have someone who demonstrates a quality you appreciate, tell him or her that. Examples: enthusiasm, initiative, attention to detail.
5. Do it often: Humans tend to remember the criticism more than the praise. So it’s important to praise more often.
6. Reward the behaviors and qualities that support the work or that you want to see more of from the person. People will tend to repeat behaviors they think are successful. Do not reward behavior or qualities that you do not need or want on the job.

The payoff in giving regular, thoughtful and specific feedback is that you will be building motivation for the person to continue doing the behaviors you want and to do less of those you don’t want. You are also building good will and creating an environment where people feel appreciated and valued. This in turn, leads to a loyal workforce.

My client took this advice and noticed immediate return. She felt better in her role as she started to expect cooperation rather than feel like she had to earn it. The people around her began seeing the work as expected and appreciated that their contributions were making a difference.

That was one success story. Do you have one?? I’d love to hear it.


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