Have you Said Your Praise Today?
by Shary Hauer

"Praise Loudly, Blame Softly"
- Catherine the Great

For most leaders, the pressure to perform is ceaseless. Hitting your numbers. Achieving your goals. Meeting your metrics. That's what's expected quarter after quarter. But, why is the race getting more intense? Why does each day seem like a perpetual revved-up Indianapolis 500? And, why is it that the pressure you are getting from above, that you send below and place within, seems to be getting "louder, longer, meaner"?

That's what Aubrey Daniels, in his performance management bible Bringing Out the Best in People, contends. We're all hearing and sending the same messages:

Work harder.
Work faster.
Work smarter.
Be more creative.
Take more initiative.

And, if we don't get the desired results, we tell the same people again, usually the same thing. This time a little louder, or longer, or perhaps a little meaner.

Is this sounding vaguely familiar?

If so, it's probably the right time for a quickie refresher on the ONE unbelievably simple thing you can do as a leader to keep your peoples' momentum and engagement soaring and ease the strain of relentless pressure.


Honest, genuine praise.

The stuff that NONE of us gets nearly enough of. Especially those sitting in the board room.

The Power of Positive Praise: Fast Facts

  • The number-one reason people leave their jobs: They don't feel appreciated.

  • Sixty-five percent (65%) of Americans received no recognition in the workplace last year.

  • Bad bosses could increase the risk of stroke by 33%.

  • A study found that negative employees can scare off every customer they speak with -- for good.

  • Nine out of 10 people say they are more productive when they're around positive people.

  • Extending longevity: Increasing positive emotions could lengthen life span by 10 years.

Be Nice: It's Good for Business

In their book How Full is Your Bucket, co-authors Tom Rath and Don Clifton draw on Gallup research and millions of interviews to show that positive give-and-take leads to higher worker satisfaction and productivity and a happier world. Most of us already recognize that fact. What we seem to forget is that we can deliberately choose to make our interactions positive or negative. And, we have twenty thousand moments in a given day, according to Rath, to exercise that choice. If 65% of people received no recognition for good work in their workplaces, clearly, there aren't enough positive moments or interactions happening in the workplace.

The financial aspects of positivity are just as compelling, says Rath. "Gallup polling has revealed that 99 out of 100 people say they want a more positive environment at work, and 9 out of 10 say they're more productive when they're around positive people. Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work.

On the other hand, people who are actively disengaged -- employees who are not only unhappy with their own roles, but are also scaring customers off -- cost the economy between $250 billion and $300 billion a year. And when we add injury, illness, turnover, and other factors associated with negativity or active disengagement, the cost could be closer to a trillion dollars, and that's nearly 10% of the U.S. GDP."

The Bottom Line: What Positive Leaders Achieve

Indeed, the litmus test of a positive leader is the esprit de corps he creates with his troops, says the Gallup folks. Positive leaders deliberately increase the flow of positive emotions within their organization. They choose to do this not just because it is a "nice" thing to do for the sake of improving morale, but because it leads to a measurable increase in performance. Studies show that organizational leaders who share positive emotions have workgroups with:

  • A more positive mood

  • Enhanced job satisfaction

  • Greater engagement

  • Improved performance

What differentiates positive leaders from the rest? Instead of being concerned with what they can get out of their employees, positive leaders search for opportunities to invest in everyone who works for them. They view each interaction with another person as an opportunity to increase his or her positive emotions.

Five Strategies to Vibrate Resonance

Did anyone tell you that one of your top jobs as leader is Climate Control Officer? That means you have to keep a constant look-out to reduce negativity, fear, apathy, silent compliance and other dissonant signals seeping into your organization. Know how to read the engagement levels of your team. Are you picking up on low energy signals? Tune in more closely to your team's "emotional register" and find ways to amplify an upbeat, positive climate.

Here are several strategies to help you keep a constant look-out for opportunities to reinforce positive behavior and performance:

  1. Prevent "Bucket Dipping": Increase your own awareness of how often your comments are negative. How much "bucket filling" do you do compared to others? Do you have low impact, some impact, or high impact on your environment? To find out, take the quick Positive Impact Assessment: http://gx.gallup.com/dipper.gx

  2. Track Your Positive/Negative Ratio. Think about your most recent inter-actions with others. Were they more positive or more negative? Did you give someone a compliment, or did you choose to make a negative comment instead? Work toward a ratio of five positive comments to every one negative comment.

  3. Shine the Light on What Is Right. Focus MORE on what your people or peers do right rather than where they need improvement. Don't underestimate the power of reinforcing good behaviors.

  4. Know Your People's Preference. To help you make each positive interaction individualized and specific, take a look at the questions in the Bucket Filling Interview Guide: http:www.bucketbook.com. My favorite questions include: What increases your positive emotion or "fills your bucket" the most? From whom do you most like to receive recognition or praise? What form of recognition motivates you the most? What is the greatest recognition you have ever received?

  5. Target Your Praise. Rather than the vague "great job!", be specific as possible with your praise. Target your praise to specific accomplishments, and not to general work. It is better to say, "Sue, that presentation you made this morning was very thorough and informative." vs. "Sue, you are a great employee to have around." Here are some more ways to help you give praise with more ease and impact: "John, I really liked the way you..."; "Thank you for....; "Linda, I noticed that when you..."; "Robin, you did a great job of..."; "It was terrific that you...Tom".

Shary Hauer is the founder and Head Coach of The Hauer Group, Inc. She is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) of high-achieving, high-potential corporate executives who aspire to lead their organizations and lives masterfully. As the Executive Potentialist™, Shary guides leaders and their teams in cultivating positive behavior change tapping all of their potentials - Intellectual, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual. Shary has coached over 250 global executives throughout the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. For more information and a complimentary Potentialist™ consultation, please contact www.thehauergroup.com .

Many more articles in Motivation and Retention in The CEO Refresher Archives


Copyright 2005 by Shary Hauer. All rights reserved.

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