Praise what you want more of

My first management job was as assistant manager at a 14-Screen cineplex for Cinemark. I worked my way up from fluorescent bow ties, visors and suspenders to a suit and tie in under 10 months. It felt great to know that my Manager Delibra Wesley trusted me with so much.

I was good at many things. There were aspects of management that came naturally to me.

But, there were 2 things I sucked at: giving praise and saying I’m sorry.

I wrote about the superpower of praising others in a previous blog, where I explained the wide benefits of giving praise.

But, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit one core aspect of that post: praising what you want more of.

You see—when I was a young manager, I held a view that many managers still hold. I believed that praise was for the things above and beyond what was expected.

I would not have liked to work for young Ryan. I was competent in so many ways, but incompetent in something so essential for effective leadership.

Today’s pain in the ask is, are you good at delivering praise?

Many businesses live by the idea that “No news is good news.” I doubt many people genuinely believe this. But, it comforts us to assume that as long as no one is complaining, we must be doing an okay job. That’s how we make ourselves feel okay about a culture with more suckage than Dirt Devil.

That is a tragedy.

Often, employees stop doing many of the things we appreciate most because they never knew they mattered to us. They thought it didn’t matter, because our praise never affirmed good behavior.

Praise should be often, and it should be sincere. But, it should not be reserved for the extraordinary.

It can be difficult in the busyness of work to remember to praise the ordinary—the things we want more of.

So, here are some suggestions for making it a habit.

  • Schedule a weekly to-do to identify areas where your people are doing things you appreciate, then issue praise face-to-face. If warranted, up the ante by praising someone in front of their peers.
  • Hold periodic breakfasts, lunches, or other team treat moments to highlight what you are seeing that makes you happy.
  • Find someone in your office who is a natural cheerleader and ask that they help remind you to draw attention to things worth praising.
  • Create a trophy that is regifted each week from one team member to another based on their own observations of achievements by others.
  • Resist the urge to think that only big things are praiseworthy.
  • Start immediately.

Your methods will change over time. Start with something small that you can easily turn into a habit. Then, evolve over time.

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