Giving Praise as a Management Tool

by Maria Sporre on January 29, 2013

Appreciative Intelligence is a term coined by Professor Tojo Thatchenkery to describe the capacity to see the positive inherent potential of situations or people – it is the ability to, for example, see a top talent that is not readily visible in the present situation. They can see what is valuable and positive in a situation or in people, and use this ability to envision how the positive aspects can be used to create a better future.

A leader with appreciative intelligence constitutes a powerful force for effecting positive change and inspiring others to give the very best they have to offer. Imagine the impact that this would have on an organisation’s culture.

74 % of the employees in Europe never receive praise

Unfortunately, we often see that keeping employees motivated has to take the backseat to managing daily  operations, making sales and crisis management. Even though you know that enabling employees and building effective teams are important for the success of the company. There is often one problem – time!

Too many managers do not make time for the one employee incentive that will never break the budget: honest praise of people and teams who do well. Research has shown that appreciation from managers is one of the incentives workers want most.

In the book Beyond Performance by Colin Price and Scott Keller, data derived from more than 700 companies suggests that the most successful companies, long term, are those that consistently focus on “enabling” things, such as leadership, purpose and employee motivation.

Despite this, according to a study by Stepstone, 74 % of employees in Europe experience that they do not receive praise from their manager. In Sweden, the percentage of employees who feel that they ge t feedback in the form of praise was, at 41 %, the highest in Europe. The managers in Sweden were closely followed by Denmark and France. In Germany, only 19 % feel that their managers show appreciation, which is the lowest.

Imagine your top performer going out if his or hers way to contribute to the department or company and receives no recognition, you run a big risk of thwarting those efforts. The lack of praise is not only demoralising for the employee, but it can also be very damaging for the overall results of the organisation, as companies where the employees feel unappreciated risk losing their top talents to competitors.

Mastering the art

It seems counter-intuitive, but praise can be as tricky to deliver as negative feedback and that is probably why few managers give praise. Here are some tips on how you can go about:

1. Beware of the “best before date” – Praise is much more effective when given soon after the desired behaviour is displayed. Do not delay until performance review time, do it when you see something that is worth praising.

2. Set your priorities – Showing people you care about them needs to move up on the list of items in the “to do” list. It does not take many seconds to say, “I appreciate the time and thought you put into this report. It is exceptional. Thank you.”

3. Be specific – It is worth the effort to be specific in your appraisal instead of using generalities; “Great job!” is not enough. It does not have to be elaborate, but by being specific and genuine the employee know what to do again.

4. Be sincere – Someone can tell straight away if you are not sincere, which in the end leads to the opposite of the intended effect.

5. Take one thing at a time – When you give praise, do not continue with other business matters. Choose another time to discuss the other questions. This will heighten the value of the appraisal in the eyes of the recipient.

good job6. Stay positive – Too often praise is followed by a “but”. Sure, corrective feedback is well situated after starting with some positive feedback. However, praise also needs to be given on its own as the “but” basically erodes everything that came before.

7. Have the right intention – If a manager gives appraisal to a member of the team so that everyone can feel good for that person and give him or her the praise that is deserved, the intention is honourable. However, if the intent is to use the person’s success to embarrass the group into better performance, it will most likely fail.

8. Write an e-mail or forward one – Proof of a written compliment is very powerful.  You can cc the team and if desired, upper management.  Simple, effective and easy to do.

9. Look at yourself – If you have difficulty praising others, try to analyse the reasons for this. How can you apply the concept of appreciative intelligence on yourself? What are your talents? Practicing appreciation of our merits enable us to appreciate others’ talents.

10. Start today!

About Maria Sporre :

Management Consultant at Bearing Consulting, with deep knowledge in Talent Management, Innovation Management, Orgnisational Development and Business Development with a wide range of industry experience. Master Degree from Stockholm School of Economics and In-depth experience at the operational and executive level as HR Manager.

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