5 Elements of Powerful Praise

The 5 Elements of Powerful Praise

If you want to start a powerful new habit in 2023, amp up your praise-giving prowess starting on National Compliment Day. Praising, complimenting, and recognizing others boosts the energy and happiness of both the giver and receiver. Positive and recognition feedback is also proven to be a key driver of performance, retention, engagement, wellbeing and fulfillment at work – all of which contribute to enhanced productivity, reduced stress, and better results. If you’re a leader, this is one of the simplest, most powerful and most fun habits you can build into your daily routine.

But not all praise is created equal. “Good job!” “Great work on that report.” “I love how organized you are.” or even “Your new haircut looks great on you!” can make a person feel good, but it’s not the kind of praise that really drives performance, engagement, and fulfillment. To get maximum return on your praise habit, you need to go beyond giving compliments and learn how to provide meaningful recognition to your people.

To develop a powerful praise habit, leaders must learn to include these 5 elements when giving recognition:

Be Attentive & Authentic

You can’t provide effective and meaningful recognition feedback if you aren’t paying attention. This might seem obvious, but leaders often don’t take the time to tune in to what their people are doing unless something goes awry. Great leaders make it a habit to “catch people doing something right” every day. Start with the people you interact most with and reflect on what you noticed them doing very well that day. How did they improve, contribute, or display excellence, innovation, or creativity? Or look at your top performers that you really depend on and think about what they consistently do well or the contributions they make that are valuable to you or the team. It only takes a minute of reflection to connect with what you authentically appreciate about them and how they add value. (Note: it’s a bit harder with team members who have performance challenges to come up with something that you can authentically provide positive feedback on, but it’s worth the effort. We’ve seen leaders turn around even the most problematic performers, by simply choosing to give them a bit of positive recognition every day, no matter how small.)

Be Specific

Instead of just telling someone they did a good job on a project or that you appreciated their help on a task, go deeper and get specific on exactly what you thought was good about how they handled the project or task. What are the details about what you saw them doing and what you thought was so interesting, effective, or unique about it? Instead of just, “Great job on that report Susan.” say something like, “The graphics on your report were outstanding Susan. I particularly appreciated how clear the graphs were.”

Be Personal

Recognition has more power if it’s personal. To make recognition more personal, ask yourself what unique personal traits and strengths were underlying the moment of excellence, improvement, or contribution you noticed. Adding onto the above example you could personalize by saying, “You always see the big picture about who these reports are meant for and I think that allows you to always find creative ways to not only simplify the data, but to ensure it drives home the key value we’ve created with our work.”

Be Meaningful

Feedback – both positive and corrective – is more meaningful when it helps the person appreciate why their actions matter in the big picture. Think about why what you are recognizing them for is important to you, your team and/or the business. Tell them why you admire, value, or appreciate their actions, words, methods, or approach so much.

Be Curious

There’s always that awkward moment after you give someone positive feedback where both the giver and the receiver aren’t sure what to do next. Sometimes the receiver will naturally share more detail on what you are recognizing them for, but if they don’t be ready with a question to ask them to get them to elaborate further. It could be as simple as, “Where did you learn to do that?” or “Have you always had such a good eye for data?” Show interest in them, get them talking, and pay close attention to what they say. When people talk about things they are good at or enjoy doing, they drop all kinds of clues about what their strengths are and what motivates them. This will provide you with valuable insights into how to help them align their goals with the organization’s needs.

Be Generous & Regular

Aim to give at least twice as much positive feedback as corrective feedback. When people know that those around them see and appreciate their strengths, they are less threatened–and therefore more open–to getting feedback on areas where they could improve. To develop regularity in your practice of praise, schedule in a 10-minute walk around your workplace once or twice a day with the intention of finding spontaneous opportunities to recognize your people. Or, if you want to be more systematic, create a list of your team members’ names and make a quick note of the date and the positive feedback you gave them. This will help you deliver positive feedback to all of your people and to avoid always recognizing them for the same things.

If you keep these elements in mind, you’ll find that delivering powerful praise takes just a few minutes. As you turn it into a regular practice, you’ll find it becomes one of the most energizing and impactful parts of your day.

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