We are currently in a series on effective communication. Last session, I talked about the importance of expectations. Today, I’m going to explain how praise and recognition can increase the effectiveness of your communication.
Last session, we discussed how expectations (or the lack of expectations) are the cause of most miscommunications. This session, I want to talk about the importance of giving praise and how to effectively recognize people.
Why Give Praise and Encouragement?
My philosophy on praising people completely changed during the summer of 2017. I was working at Typhoon Texas Waterpark as the Director of Organizational Development. One of my big projects for the summer was to create a rewards and recognition program for our employees.
I got this idea: what if we could recognize employees in real-time, while they were working? What if we could also post it to social media so our employees could be recognized by others in the community?
I can still vividly remember our first video (you can view it here). We were going to recognize Parker Thompson, who was working on top of a slide tower as a lifeguard. I made my way up the stairs to present his award and immediately saw a large line of people. I began to question my decision to do this project. I was about to stop this line of people who had been waiting in the sun and the Texas heat for a long time to ride these slides; they were going to get mad. But I continued to make my way to the top with the camera rolling, and stopped all operations. I then shared why we were recognizing Parker. You know what happened when I got done? Every single person in line started clapping and cheering. They weren’t mad at all; they loved that we were recognizing one of our employees and loved being part of the experience.
That rewards program (which we named the Rising Star Program) ended up winning a Brass Ring Award in the global attractions industry. The best employee recognition program in the entire world.
I learned two valuable lessons from this experience:
- Recognition creates value. When we acknowledge a job well done, it makes the other person feel valued or important. One of the greatest needs we have as humans is the need to feel important or significant. That’s why you hear many people saying, “I just want to make a difference with my life”. Most people who quit or leave their job do so because they didn’t feel valued by their boss.
- Rewards increase influence. When you reward someone for doing a good job, they want to do it again. What gets rewarded gets repeated. I’m not talking about manipulation (which is the negative form of influence and is powered by negative motives), I’m talking about influence that is motivated by what is best for the individual and the team. Recognizing excellent work ensures that they will continue that behavior.
How to Give Effective Praise
Think of this as a PSA (public service announcement), but instead, we are going to give a Praise Service Announcement.
When possible, always recognize people in public. As author and leadership guru Dave Ramsey says, “The last time most people received applause was at their high school graduation”. Plus, when we praise people in front of our team, it motivates the rest of the team to work harder because they want to be praised as well. It’s like positive peer pressure.
Be specific. Don’t just say, “great job”. Great is subjective; no one really knows what it means. If you watched the Rising Star video, you will notice I was specific with the praise. He won the award for being “Texas-Friendly” (which is one of the Typhoon Texas core values) and then I shared why.
Be authentic. If the person you are praising doesn’t think you are genuine, then your praise means nothing. Let them know that the reason you are recognizing them is a big deal and that you are proud of them.
Besides filming videos, one of the other fun projects I get to work on is designing leadership training programs for other organizations. When we talk about giving praise, I always use the quote, “catch people doing something right”. Today, I want you to “catch someone doing something right”, and then use the PSA method. It might be a little awkward for you at first, but I guarantee that over time, it will do wonders for your leadership.