One of the secrets to human performance is hidden in plain sight. That is, most don’t see it or they ignore it. The amazing part is that it’s free and it works.

Here’s the secret: in a given role, people deliver their best performance when they feel valued and respected, no matter what the conditions. Yes, it can be that simple. The word we’re looking for here is “praise.” Praise is simply an expression of approval and commendation. “I like what you did there. (Approval) You did a great job. (Commendation).”

Somebody is doing it wrong. I have talked with employees and managers who have left organizations because they didn’t receive enough “praise” – recognition for a job well done. In surveys we have done for clients, we see a troubling trend: approximately half the employees don’t feel they get enough performance feedback. Inquiring minds want to know! Even leaders want to know: When Ed Koch was the 105th mayor of New York City, he used to stand at street corners greeting passersby with the slogan “How’m I doin’?”

Most employees and managers want to please the boss. They don’t always know what you want or how to please. They may not remember what you’ve said. They always remember how you made them feel. Sincere gratitude (giving praise) improves performance because you get more of what you want (through positive reinforcement). Simple, but not easy you say. Here are five action steps you can take right now:

  • With expectations, be tough. With people, be tender
  • “De-but” your compliments. Don’t say “I like what you did there, but…” It kills the praise.
  • Make sure your head and your heart are connected. Don’t let one overpower the other.
  • Give praise for progress, not just perfection. Perfection is rare, praise shouldn’t be.
  • Remember, it’s not about you.

Thanks for investing the time to read this. I appreciate you and hope you got something useful.

In Other Words…

“Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate.” ― William Arthur Ward

“In the best, the friendliest and simplest relations, flattery or praise is necessary, just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turning. ” ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“We would worry less if we praised more. Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” ― H.A. Ironside

In The Word…

“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; And my soul, which You have redeemed.” — Psalm 71:23