I was sitting across the table from one of my employees last year, and she had recently made some improvements in her attitude and job performance. I knew that it was my responsibility as a leader to recognize those improvements, but a little voice inside my head was telling me not to say anything.
I thought to myself, if I tell her how happy I am with her improvements, she will use it as an excuse to “take her foot off the gas.” After all, she would know she had earned some good favor, and could then afford to kick back and stop trying for a while.
This is the mindset of amateur leaders, and was the way I thought before understanding one of the most basic, but powerful ways we can coach an employee to a higher level of performance.
Dale Carnegie said,
“Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
So why are business leaders reluctant to adopt this concept when they’re coaching employees and preparing their high-potentials to lead? A couple reasons:
- Negative coaching has been glorified in the media, so managers are literally mimicking the so-called “leaders” they see on TV and in movies.
- When praise and appreciation is not delivered correctly, it sounds insincere, so it doesn’t work, thus reinforcing the idea that praise and appreciation is a waste of time in general.
Here’s what I know from both my own business experience, and those of our clients:
- Negative coaching leads to high turnover, one of the most costly phenomenon a company can experience.
- When praise is specific and in front of others, it energizes the recipient to repeat the behavior that led to it.
So next time you hesitate to praise an employee, take Mr. Carnegie’s advice, and find out how powerful praise and appreciation can be.