Solid self-esteem does not negate the need for outside affirmation and praise. It’s the feel-good reward for the do-good activities and results. Affirmation is asserting the truth or existence of something. Praise is an expression of approval and commendation. The nexus of these two involves truth-telling approval and favorable expression about something another person has done. That’s it. “I’m aware of what you did. I approve of it, and I like it. Thank you.” You get more of what you positively reinforce.

Many would-be leaders seem to work overtime to make this hard. Please don’t.

Let’s see if we can make this easier for some and an affirmation for others. Here are three alliterative goals to help you remember how to establish praise to achieve better performance. People need to feel:

  • Visible – they feel seen and heard, knowing that their mere presence is important
  • Viable – they are involved in the process and acknowledged for their contribution and commitment
  • Valuable – they feel respected and recognized; true recognition is defined in their terms, not yours

Your best performance as a giver of affirmation and praise involves recognition that is timely, specific and customized. Timely simply means that you connect your recognition back to the events, actions or results as soon as possible. If this is behavior you want to continue, let them know now. The semi-annual review is too late. The opportunity has passed.

Tell them exactly what you liked and why. Be specific. To tell someone, “You did a good job” isn’t enough. Good job at what? What if we define “good job” differently? Try something like this, “Your briefing document for our annual planning session is the best I’ve seen. I really liked the way you organized it from general discussion topics to strategic questions to action items. The background reading summaries were well chosen. It’s clear that you’ve been listening and that you got a lot of input from the functional VP’s. I’m very impressed. Thank you!”  How long did that take? About 30 seconds.  Please tell me how you can get a better positive return on your investment of time.

People are different. Some prefer to be praised in private, others in public. Some prefer a “big deal” while others prefer simple and quiet. Remember, it’s not about you. Praise works best when done in a way that suits the person receiving the praise. Here are five tips, phrases, to get you started:

  • I appreciate you.
  • Thank you.
  • What do you need from me?
  • How are you doing, really?
  • I’m sorry.

Oh, and don’t forget to smile.

In Other Words…

“Don’t forget, a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr., Life’s Little Instruction Book: 511 Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life

“[He was aware] of the value of the word of praise dropped at exactly the right moment; and he would have thought himself extremely stupid to withhold what cost him so little and was productive of such desirable results.” ― Georgette Heyer, Sylvester

“Sometimes we make being happy so difficult. And being thankful such a chore.” ― Carew Papritz, The Legacy Letters: His Wife, His Children, His Final Gift

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ― Voltaire

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson

In The Word…

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18