Praise the…staff

By: Amanda Bay | On: February 21, 2014 | In: advice for managers, Coaching, Manager Praise, No Comments

 

I love people watching, and more often than not, I play the role of a quiet onlooker everywhere I go. Most recently, I was at the airport and found myself watching an interaction between an employee and her manager. The manager seemed patient and knowledgeable, the employee new and doing hands-on training. Things seemed to be going smoothly between the two.

 

But I was not prepared for what I heard next.

 

“Good girl”—were the words the manager doled out matter-of-factly. I was shocked. It was a pathetic and feeble attempt at giving praise. Not only was it condescending, but also completely disrespectful to the 40-something-year-old employee. Could these two words be doing more harm than good? Did the manager not realize the impact of her words?
From my point of view, it seemed that the manager’s intention of giving praise was there, but it certainly lacked meaning—well, any positive meaning, that is. But it got me thinking that with a bit of refinement, this manager could have delivered much more meaningful praise.

 

So, how can a manager give praise more effectively?

 

WHAT TO SAY

1. Be Specific
Rather than use blanket statements (“good job” or “great work”), be specific. Focus on WHAT you are praising. What exactly did the employee do well? The manager above could have easily said, “You handled that difficult customer with ease. I’m impressed!” or, “You were able to resolve that problem quickly and calmly. Good for you!”

 

HOW TO SAY IT

2. Be Positive
Make sure your tone of voice and body language match your words —or think about HOW to say it. Simply, positive feedback should be said with positivity. If you are not sure of your tone, give praise with a smile—doing this not only makes you feel and look happy, but you will sound friendly and positive. Test it out in the mirror. It really does work, and that is why so many call centre employees are trained to answer the phone with a smile.

 

Also remember to keep your body language positive by maintaining eye contact and having a natural, upright position with arms and hands open (not folded, crossed or fists clenched).

 

3. Be Sincere
Employees will pick up on false or forced praise, which does nothing to boost or encourage them. I once had a manager who seemed pained by giving praise. And on the occasion when a compliment was given, it felt unnatural and pointless. I think I would have preferred if he had said nothing at all.

 

You may have the right words, but they need to be delivered from the heart. Be genuine and honest. Sincerity cannot be forced. If you don’t feel it, no one will believe it.

 

WHEN TO SAY IT

4. Be Timely
Don’t wait until the end-of-year reviews or mid-year performance evaluations to dish out the praise. Celebrate the small wins along the way. Whether an employee suggests an improvement to a process or handles a difficult situation with ease, don’t delay; give them praise as soon as possible. This could be on the spot, at the end of the shift or in a weekly meeting. The key thing here is to have employees feeling valued throughout the year, and not just at scheduled performance evaluation times.

 

5. Be Proactive
With so many tasks and responsibilities, sometimes it is the simplest things to do, like giving praise, that get demoted to the bottom of the manager’s “to-do list.” But make it a priority. Be proactive in finding ways to add words of encouragement to your staff throughout the week when you see a stellar performance or a job well done. One manager I knew would start off their team’s weekly meeting by emphasizing some “gold star” moments of the past week. And sometimes, all it takes is a simple thank you.
Praise is one of the simplest things a manager can do and it only takes a few minutes. Offering encouraging words can boost morale and impact engagement and productivity in the workplace. It is a huge return on your investment and good for the company to keep staff engaged, enthused and motivated to do their best work. So go ahead: praise the staff!

 

You can read more about Oculus leadership training by visiting our leadership training page or the Oculus website.  Happy managing!

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