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The power of praise and how to give it

Jan 29, 2021

2020 presented leaders and their teams many challenges, making boosting morale more important than ever. Learning how to praise your staff is an essential skillset. Fiona Flynn tells us how.

Giving praise might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering business leader duties, but praise has been shown to have a direct impact on business results. A Gallup poll found that people who received “recognition or praise for doing good work” are also responsible for a 10% to 20% difference in revenue and productivity. Employees who reported that they are not adequately recognised at work were three times more likely to quit in the next year.

As we move through Q1 and into Q2 of 2021, many managers and organisations are completing the annual review process. This can be a painful or powerful task. Unfortunately, managers can unknowingly undermine employee performance during this process.

According to research from the Corporate Executive Board, line managers directly influence many key drivers of employee’s performance, improving or destroying performance by up to 40%.

Giving praise authentically has many benefits for the indivdual, team and organisation. It creates a positive workplace climate with higher levels of trust, improved problem-solving and innovation and a postive impact on the customer experience and net promoter score.

How to give praise

There are a few things to keep in mind when acknowledging employee accomplishments and giving praise.

Be genuine

Ensure the message is delivered with genuine conviction and authenticity.

Be specific

Clearly articulate what behaviour is being recognised – solving a problem, using their initative, collaborating with another department. Recognise how the behaviours reflect company values, purpose, and business.

Be consistent

Use praise as part of regular one-on-ones between you and employees, and not just once a year at the review.

Be spontaneous

When you receive feedback from others about your employee, or see a positive behaviour – pass on the praise. You don’t need to wait for a one-on-one or review session. Send the email or talk to them immediately.

Recognise behaviours

Don’t just focus on the end results of great performance – praise the behaviours that contributed to that result, as well. Smart actions on the part of the employee won’t always end up as a business win, but you want to reinforce that what they did was the best option.

Ask open-ended questions and listen

Encourage and praise employees for sharing their insights – this encouragement can cultivate discretionary behaviour and problem-solving culture within the whole team.

Offer praise, even amidst failure

Praise your team members even when, despite their best efforts, things don’t go as planned.  It is at this time that praise can have the most impact. It can boost morale and get the employee’s mindset back on track. Use it as a coaching and learning opportunity. Review the process and identify what they did well, what they learned and what they would change the next time.

Set clear goals and expectations

Be sure that the goals given to the team, as well as your expectation in meeting those goals, are clear. This ensures that praise is transparent, and people don’t feel excluded.

Praise is a powerful tool that can be used to support and stretch team members. It will improve their self-confidence and morale. It is a particularly useful technique when implementing change – new processes, systems, etc. Identify and praise the individuals who are leaning in and adopting the change. That can have a ripple effect to encourage others to also do well.

Fiona Flynn is a Director of Montauk Consulting.