Tip #10–Tell people what you like about them

Posted on August 15, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development, Staff selection |

People appreciate hearing what they do well and what we like about them. Building relationship with coworkers, subordinates, and supervisors is easy when we tell those individuals what we specifically appreciate about them. Giving honest, appropriate compliments to the people around us can help them feel noticed and appreciated. It can also help us begin to change our thoughts about those individuals into more positive ones.

My motivation for writing this tip in 2003 was hearing far too many people complain that all they ever heard from their boss was what they did wrong. When I asked what sort of affect this had on their willingness to work for those bosses, their responses were classic:

  • When the boss approaches me, I prepare for another jab at my abilities
  • I don’t have much motivation to improve because I never know what I’m doing right
  • I’m so used to the criticism now that it doesn’t mean anything anymore

These very typical responses are indicative of a perception among staff that the only time the boss talks to them is when they’ve done something wrong. When staff has that perception, it squelches initiative and stops creativity.

Why are initiative and creativity important?

Without initiative, staff simply carry out instructions. When they have reached the end of their set of instructions for an assigned task, they lack motivation to move to another task until assigned to it. In other words, there’s no ownership of the mission or goals of the company. Without that ownership, staff is typically unwilling to solve problems, brainstorm ways to increase effectiveness, or remain with the company for very long.

Creativity–an offshoot of initiative–is the characteristic in staff that results in new methods to streamline processes; it’s the characteristic that fuels excitement and generates ideas; it’s the characteristic that–when it is rewarded–keeps exceptional talent in a job even when they know there’s more green (money) at another company.

Give praise where it’s due

You can cultivate initiative and creativity in your staff by acknowledging their unique contributions and strengths as they relate to the success of the company. Start looking for ways your staff supports the mission of your company. Consciously seek out those efforts that help achieve the company’s goals. Once you begin to recognize those actions, tell the employee you noticed and that you appreciate them!

What will be the outcome?

If your staff isn’t accustomed to hearing from you except when they’ve messed up, they’ll be extremely skeptical of any praise you hand out. Why? Because they aren’t used to it. They’ll be watching to see whether this “new” you will vanish as quickly as you showed up.

Over time and with consistency on your part, they’ll question whether they can count on the new you to stick around. They may even test you to see whether this new behavior on your part is reliable.

As you continue to commit to giving praise where it’s due, they will become accustomed to this new you and begin to respond to it–with greater initiative and more creativity. The process isn’t easy but it is worth the effort.

Does this mean I can never point out problems again?

Absolutely not. Your job as supervisor is to ensure adherence to the quality of your product and the successful completion of your staff’s projects. It’s your job to correct inappropriate behavior and to point out when projects are not done to the level of excellence you expect.

However, your job also involves ensuring you have a team committed to the success of your department. That’s where praising and acknowledging accomplishments comes in. You will do more for creating a team atmosphere by incorporating praise into how you communicate with your staff … and encouraging your staff to acknowledge others’ contributions as well.

Putting praise to work

Over the course of the next several days, pay attention to the individual efforts and behaviors of your staff. Watch specifically for efforts and behaviors that support your mission and help achieve your goals. Then, point out those efforts to the individuals exhibiting them. Say something like, “Dan, I noticed yesterday in our meeting that you were prepared with an answer to the client’s question regarding delivery dates. Good work. That shows you anticipated their questions.”

As simple as that. What’s not so simple is remembering to look for those efforts. After all, it’s much easier to point out the problems than it is to recognize individuals’ successes and efforts. But the longterm rewards are in recognizing the efforts.

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