Leadership Skills (3ofX) - Sincere Praise

21 Jan

Motivating employees is a complex process involving many factors that affect differently upon different people.  And as if to make it more difficult for the managers to motivate their subordinates, motivation by its nature is temporary and dynamic state ...

Prerequisite for successful motivation is to maintain a constant dialogue with employees and to know better their personality. Regardless of the complexity of the never-ending process of motivating your staff there are elements that are always applicable. One of these elements is the praise. A sincere, on-time, well-defined praise is the golden key to the human soul and it is among the must-to-learn leadership skills. As ancient wisdom says: “The sincere praise is fragrance, do not keep it for the dead.”

Like in the reprimand process, the praise process starts with

1. Create in advance clear, simple system for evaluating employee performance (as opposed to sporadic improvised evaluations).
leadership skills, motivation, praiseEvery employee must know how s/he will be informed by his immediate superior when s/he works better and when - worse. The purpose of this feedback is the employee to become more useful to the company. Good idea for the beginning is the team leader to require daily brief written reports in order to catch the newcomer when s/he is doing something better. Yes, you read it correctly – “when doing something better”. As a manager you are looking for a reason to praise the newcomer.  The first few months, while getting used to job specifics it is highly recommendable the employee not to be punished.  If an error is done during this period, the manager must again set the goal, but not to rebuke him. The same principle applies to an experienced colleague, who was assigned a new project of great importance.
2.1. When? Praise immediately after the employee action.
The praise effect is greatest when the praise is done by the manager in the shortest possible time after subordinate’s action, because at that time s/he still remembers most details of his behavior. With that timely response leaders seal the proper behavior in employee’s mind. In the future, that subordinate has the opportunity to recall this positive memory when similar task occurs.   

2.2. What? Tell the employee what he did better.
Concreteness in the action description indicates the extent to which the leader is concerned about employee’s success in the company.  This description draws the memory that we want to be nestled in subordinate’s subconsciousness.
2.3. How? Show your manager’s joy of employee excellent work.

Say how much you are satisfied with what he has done, how it helps the company and the team to be more successful.
2.4. Silence! Become silent for a few seconds!
Allow the subordinate to feel your satisfaction!
2.5. Encourage him to continue to work in the same way.
2.6. Shake his hand or touch him.
Why the above described sincere praise process works?

I will describe a similar conceptual model of sincere praise in killer whale training. I know that killer whales are not people, but let me just borrow the concept (although in terms of life in a harmonious team, people can learn a lot from killer whales, that live in one and the group of 9-18 individuals as long as 90 years). So how do you think people teach killer whales to jump over a rope, which is hanging a several feet above the water?  If you believe that the trainers do not give them food until they jump – you are mistaken.  That method will starve to death the killer whales as they do not understand what they are expected to do.  The training starts with teaching the killer whales to do something almost right. At the outset, the coaches put the rope at the bottom of the tank. And whenever killer whales swim over it they get food.  Then the rope is lifted to the middle of the tank and trainers give the killer whales praise only when they swim over the rope. Later the coaches put the rope on the water surface and whales have to jump over it to obtain food.  Finally, the rope is lifted several feet above the water…

The key turn someone to winner is to get him first to perform the task almost right.  After a while - better, and finally excellent.  And at that point he is well trained and motivated.

We never tell to our learning to walk child: "... until you make 10 steps I won’t give you a kiss."  On the contrary, even at the first faltering and hesitant step we cover him kisses... At the workplace somehow we are forgetting that learning any new activity is a multi-step process, which requires the praise from the manager after each successful step, being it very small one.

In brief, the sincere praise process works because:
• The employee conduct evaluation is based on pre-established system
• Provides immediate feedback
• Indicates exactly where and when the subordinate performed well
• Show manager’s joy of employee’s success
In the next article of the series Leadership Skills (? Of X) we will discuss effective business meetings.
In order to avoid repetition - manager and leader are used as fully interchangeable words.



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