In my five years as a Practice Manager (that’s someone who manages a Practice, not someone who is still practicing to be a Manager), I have noticed a distinct lack of respect, eye contact and genuine praise from the higher-ups and an increase in rudeness, ignorance and criticism for the lower-downs. Something to which I said I would never succumb. In fact, no matter how cranky I am at someone I try to emphasise their good points before slapping them from here to Tuesday! If you can be critical of someone, you need to counterbalance that in the case of almost everyone, except George Bush and John Howard, with a little praise and encouragement.
Effective praise is a skill set that must be learned like any other. Leaders often find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time identifying what is wrong, identifying mistakes, and concentrating on errors. Effective leaders look for opportunities to find people doing things right and offer them the encouragement and the support they need to keep succeeding.
There are five things a leader can do to insure their statements of praise are effective.
Make sure the praise is authentic. Authentic does not mean it must be a tremendous accomplishment. It does mean it has to be honest. You don’t need to wait until your friend has finished his novel to administer praise. In fact it may be more effective to acknowledge when he has reached the 200 page goal. For example “Well done sir for attempting a fantasy novel even if your hero has a disciple’s name . . .which means small . . ha ha Paul the Small . .. .oops getting off topic.
Make sure the praise is specific. Acknowledging the excellent way in which something challenging was handled is an excellent example. Identify areas of strength and acknowledge them. “Your squab stew is absolutely delicious . . did you shoot it yourself?”
Make sure the praise is immediate. Providing positive feed back as soon as things happen is a powerful tool to encourage them to happen again. “Thanks for making your bed and hanging your wet towel up DrummerBoy” . . . DOH! That’s right, he’s in Canberra.
Make sure the praise is untainted. Tainted praise has an ulterior motive. Tainted praise often has the addendum “but” attached. Ooops previous praise of young author now null and void . . .tainted . . .sorry”
Make sure the praise is private. Recognising someone in public is often more a performance by the speaker rather than support for the subject of the praise. “I can’t praise you here because everyone of my bloggers and readers will know who I'm talking about and then it won’t be private but I think you’re really really sweet, mature, sensitive, clever, talented, intelligent, honest, heartfelt and funny and you have a truly wonderful voice/accent.”
However you elect to reinforce others, it is important that you do so on a regular basis . . .So praise up and praise regularly. I loves yer werk!