I learned long ago as a leader that the more credit, praise, and encouragement you give away, the more that comes back. The truth is, we’re all starving for it.
Research I conducted among 3,000 executives revealed a whopping 68 percent felt underappreciated. I also asked in this research, “In the past six months has anything happened at work that’s caused you to take a step back in your self-confidence?”
A stunning 93 percent said, “Yes.”
The people all around you need your inspiration more than you know.
You have the opportunity to be an epicenter of encouragement, if you so choose. Being stingy with credit, praise, and encouragement only encourages others to be the same way—not the multiplier effect you want.
However, if you’re going to do it, do it right. Here are 3 important rules for doing so, straight from research, experience, and psychology.
1. Be frequent but not frivolous with praise.
Frequency doesn’t mean “everyone gets a trophy.” Make sure to tie the reward/praise to results or any other stated goal, or it will feel superfluous and disingenuous. Reward results, not just activity.
2. Deliberate how you deliver the praise, personalizing it so you don’t trivialize it.
If you give generic praise for the same things to everyone in the same way, it loses its meaning. Take the time to think through how to tailor the praise to the individual and how they like to receive praise.
Remember that time you watched a leader botch giving praise to someone? Maybe they came across as unprepared, uncaring, or uninterested. The point is, you remember that, right?
Talk about leaving an unintended impression. Don’t fall into this trap.
3. Give informed encouragement.
This means to encourage, but back up that encouragement with specific reasons and rationale.
When you back up your optimism (as opposed to just doing rash cheerleading), it makes the encouragement far more meaningful.
For example, you can explain to employees why there’s reason for hope in times of adversity based on detailed plans you’ve heard from your bosses. You can bolster upper management’s excitement about why a plan will work based on perspective you uniquely have from frontline employees. You can encourage peers based on your access to the overall big picture that you’re given.
Giving informed encouragement can be enabled simply by asking yourself a one-word question before giving your next dose of it: “Why?” Meaning, why should your audience be encouraged by your words? What is the detailed reason behind it or what information or perspective can you share that lends it credibility?
There’s nothing wrong with a “You can do it!” but it’s far more powerful when they’re reminded specifically why they can do it.
Try this as well. Ask employees what their goals are. Then validate those goals out loud. You’ll be amazed at how motivating your verbal stamp of approval can be. Offer your partnership in helping them achieve that goal to really ramp up the encouragement.
So, give praise and encouragement liberally, with these simple rules in mind, and your efforts will be remembered — in the right way.
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