Giving Praise to Inspire Your Staff to Greatness

“There are two things people want more than sex and money… recognition and praise” — Mary Kay AshThumbs Up and a Well Done! on a blackboard 

Mary Kay Ash established the global Mary Kay® direct-sales cosmetic business in 1963 with $5,000 and the help of her 20-year-old son. Today it is a $3.5 billion company.

Mary Kay built the foundation of her business on the Golden Rule. She advocated, “praising people to success” and “sandwiching every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise.”

Do You Praise Enough?

Like most people in a highly competitive business world, you may feel you’re doing the work of two people. But are you too busy to offer praise, or give an “attaboy” for a job well done?

Praise motivates us and lets us know that our hard work is appreciated and inspires us to do even more. It doesn’t take a lot to show how much you value someone. Too often, we focus on the wrong things. Training someone in how to do something right is a manager’s most important job. Of course, you have to correct mistakes.

But you also need to offer praise when you see improvement. Even the most experienced and successful employees crave praise, but they are least likely to get it because they’re expected to be good at their jobs.

Praise is a great motivator and helps build relationships. A pat on the back is often all the appreciation someone needs to strive to accomplish even more.

You may find it difficult to offer compliments. Maybe you didn’t get praised enough when you were growing up or it embarrasses you. Not giving praise because you’re afraid it will make the other person look better than you is a very poor excuse. It’s also unseemly to offer praise because you want a favor from the other person.

How and When to Give Praise

It’s important to give praise appropriately, and not for simply completing an assignment. That diminishes praise for truly outstanding work.

  • Give timely praise. Praise someone immediately if she’s done something well. Don’t wait until her annual review.Multiethnic Group of People Holding Letter Inspire
  • Praise in person. If you work in the same location, praise the person face-to-face. We’ve all gotten too reliant on email as our primary form of communication. If you’re not in the same location, pick up the phone. Don’t send an email and think it’s cute to include an emoticon like a smiley face. That will trivialize the praise.
  • Be specific. Try not to use generalizations like “good job.” Be specific and say something like, “You really understood how to make that project a huge success. Your team learned a lot from the experience.” Maybe you couple the praise with a promotion or by assigning the leader an even more important project.
  • Give something tangible. If a team has brought in piece of new business, have a pizza party. Many agencies will break out bottles of champagne for the win. Even a box of candy will be appreciated. And no one ever turned down a raise.
  • Be sensitive. Some people are shy about receiving praise publicly, so don’t do it in front of a group. It’s part of your job to understand the sensitivities of your team.
  • Spread your praise. Don’t only praise the rainmakers. That proposal might not have gotten out in time without the executive assistant working on the PowerPoint until midnight.

As Mary Kay advocated, praise your people to success. Let them know how important their work is to the organization. That’s how you create new leaders and build great companies.

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