The Hidden Power of Praise
Everyone likes a compliment. Everyone wants to hear that their contribution matters.
Research suggests that appreciation for the impact you make is the number one predictor of job satisfaction. Therefore, it is understandable that leaders would use the power of praise as a tool to reduce turnover, boost productivity and help your people feel valued. After all, it’s a great cost-effective way to confirm and reinforce your desired team behaviours.
However, when working with teams to embed their peer-to-peer recognition programmes, or with individual leaders to help them turn around team performance, I have seen another benefit of recognition that I think has largely gone unnoticed.
When people praise their colleagues for their work or recognise the impact of their help, a funny thing happens. Yes, the person who received the recognition usually feels a sort of warm glow in the affirmation that what they do matters, but what is often missed is that the person giving the praise also benefits from this ‘warm glow’ feeling.
Tom Rath described it best in his book ‘How full is your bucket’ — when we give others praise, we also receive the benefit of feeling better, more focused on the right outcomes, and more connected to our colleagues and team members. The added, invisible benefit comes from the change in the praise giver’s mindset — when we are focused on hunting the positives in what our people or our teammates do, we are more likely to see the benefits and behaviours we are looking for. You’ve heard the adage ‘ what you focus on expands’, well when you hunt the positives, the strange thing that happens is you often get a whole lot more positives to be thankful for.
An unexpected gem in giving praise is not simply that your team feels appreciated. It’s that you get to feel that glowing feeling too. A funny and totally ‘unrelated-to-the-workplace’ example of this was when I went to the supermarket. This particular trip happened about three years ago and I can still vividly remember it. My two youngest children were sitting in the front of the trolley and we were playing a game where they called out the colour of the label of whatever I had chosen to go into the trolley. My son had correctly called out red for the tomato sauce bottle I was holding and this older gentleman who happened to be passing, stopped and showered him with praise. I could see my son blossom under the attention and compliments, which is not surprising as who doesn’t like to be told they are clever and have done a good effort. The funny thing was when we had finished our exchange and the man went back to his shopping, I saw a spring in his step that hadn’t been there before. His day was better because he took the time to pause and give a voice to praise my child.
Often in the workplace, we feel that it has to be the leader’s job to give praise and recognition. However, in this new hybrid workplace we find ourselves in, it can be harder to hunt the positives when our teams are working remotely and we often don’t have a line of sight over daily behaviours.
This is just one small reason why peer-to-peer recognition programs are so powerful. Providing a structured system where your whole team gets to participate in praise and recognition can have a multiplier effect on team connection, interpersonal dynamics, and overall performance. Not only do you have more opportunities to identify impactful behaviours that help drive team performance, but you get to share that feel-good feeling across your whole workforce.
I have seen cultures shift significantly when we have supported them in implementing peer to peer recognition programmes, and the relationships leaders have with their team members deepen significantly when challenged to hunt the positive and catch their team members doing good work.
Perhaps you can give yourself the gift of an extra spring in your step today by pausing from the busyness of your daily life and taking a moment to appreciate someone in your team, your business or your personal life for their contribution.
A simple framework that can help super-charge your recognition efforts is to follow the BIG formula:
B = identify the behaviour that merits reward or recognition. Be specific and if possible catch them in the act of doing something right so it doubles as immediate positive feedback.
I = let the other person know the impact their behaviour has for you, the project, or team etc.
G = give the gift of an authentic ‘thank you’. (If it is close to performance review time, G can also stand for identifying areas of growth for your team members to do even more of what they are doing so well).
Why not play a game this week to see if you can generate yourself as someone who hunts the positive by finding at least one thing each day to ‘BIG up’ the people in your life.
After all, I can see you are someone who likes to finish what you’ve started by reading this far. Good on you for staying with this article right to the end – the impact of that small habit of finishing what you start is often credited by successful people as being one of the most profound keys to them achieving their goals.
Thank you for reading.