No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Praise in Public

I once had a boss who regularly patted me on the back -- regularly as in once a year, at my annual performance review, in the privacy of his office. Those little bits of praise did nothing for me, both because they came in such an artificial setting and because they seemed like our little secret.
The old saw "Silence is affirmation" maybe worked for previous generations, but these days people expect to hear what they do right as well as what they do wrong.
First lesson: Praise frequently. In fact, every time a team member does something you like, you should feel free to say so. Multiple times a day isn't too often.
Second lesson: Praise where others can overhear. Walk up to that person at her desk and say, "Good job handling that angry client." Approach an operator at his mill and say, "You really got us out of a bind getting that batch out so fast." Let all of his and her peers see and hear you.
Even better: Say the good thing to someone else (preferably a senior someone) in a context where the team member hears it. When you tell your boss in front of Joe how great Joe is, it's a huge pick-me-up for Joe. Especially if it's also in front of the whole team. The military does this really well.
When you praise in public, you do two things for your team members. First, you make them feel appreciated, which is a basic need we all have. Second, they gain some recognition from the rest of the team, without having to toot their own horns.
For it to be accepted as genuine, though, it has to be natural. If praising doesn't feel natural to you, then you have something to work on. You may have to set yourself a quota at first, to form the habit. But do whatever it takes; this is something you owe your people.

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