Leaders know that encouragement is important, but it tends to be too rare and fall into just one or two categories:
- I believe you can do it. (Spurring someone on to meet their potential when they’re discouraged or not measuring up.)
- You are exceeding expectations. (Praising someone who has gone above and beyond, exceeded standards, or has achieved more than others.)
But I propose there is a third category that is even more important:
- You’re doing this as expected.
This is the category that gets ignored the most. Why? Because lots of leaders say, “Why should I praise someone for doing their job?”
Well, because this isn’t praise. It’s positive feedback and a form of encouragement. All forms of encouragement and feedback exist to influence future behavior.
Research indicates that we need to hear three times as many bits of positive feedback as critical feedback.
This isn’t the sandwich method, where in one conversation you give positive feedback, negative feedback, and end with positive feedback. This is overall. For example, over the span of a year, a person who has been given five bits of critical feedback also needed fifteen bits of positive feedback.
Nor am I suggesting that you only say things like “You are doing this as expected,” or “You have shown up on time again, great job!” or “For the hundredth time in a row, you have submitted your TPS reports correctly. Good work.”
Instead, choose moments to point out that when they do their job, it makes good things happen. That doing their job puts less stress on their coworkers and supervisors. This reiterates that their job is meaningful and important, and that they’re on the right track.
Also, be specific. Instead of saying, “Good job on the presentation,” tell them why they did a good job. Say, “Your research on last quarter’s sales numbers was eye opening. The comparison chart you made really brought out some of the issues we’re having. Thank you for that.”
So, add the outcome of their work, thank them, and encourage them to keep it up.
- Because you consistently get the TPS report right and on time, I never have to stress about it. And, it makes our team look good. Thanks for that—it matters.
- When you show up 5 minutes early to the meeting, I get to catch up with you a bit, and I like that. Keeps us in touch.
- Your dependability on returning calls and emails is much appreciated. I never have you on a mental “check in with Tabby” list.
Find moments to let people know their work has value. Encourage frequently.
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