Praise Requires a Tricky Balance
Most leaders don’t give enough of it. Most team members want a lot more of it. Add to those facts that most leaders don’t know how to offer it, and we have ourselves a world-class leadership dilemma. We’re talking about praise, of course.
How much praise you desire as a leader is a good indicator of how much praise you offer others. Leaders who crave praise themselves typically shower others with compliments, while those leaders who deflect praise are generally praise stingy. As a result, leaders commonly offer too much, or too little, praise.
Finding the right balance is trickier than most leaders think. A constant stream of “way-to-go’s” lowers the bar and strips praise of impact. Unearned praise can rob others of their motivation to get better. On the other hand, too little praise makes team members feel unappreciated, undervalued, and unrecognized. An environment without much praise from the leader typically results in a sour work climate where team members hog credit in order to be recognized.
The short list of best practices for giving praise is not complicated and should be stored in the memory banks of good leaders. Praise only genuine accomplishments. When possible, praise the effort and choices people make and not the results they produce. By praising what things people control and not the outcomes they don’t, leaders reward good choices. The best leaders praise the behaviors they want to see more of in the future. They also reserve the deepest praise for team members who challenge themselves to get better, as this recognition lights the fire of self-motivation for everyone.
Praise is seen as the panacea for becoming a better leader. Unfortunately, giving praise is more complicated than most of us imagine it to be. Giving others the praise they need and in the proper dosages is essential for leaders. Just remember - team members like lots of sugar, but not too sweet.
Also helpful to remember, that in many cases, praise shouldn't count as feedback.