It’s been many years since my first child was learning
to walk, but I still remember the excitement of it all. We cheered every
move as Dave struggled to get up, stood up, fell down, tried, failed and finally
We cheered every valiant attempt, every small bit of improvement and,
finally, success. Why don’t act the same with people at work?
Praise is a powerful tool, the most powerful one we have to get a person to
try something new, or continue improving at something difficult. But we
seem to withhold praise until performance is excellent. Sometimes we don’t even
That’s like waiting to praise that baby learning to walk until he or she wins
an Olympic medal in track. It’s stupid and counterproductive. Here are
some tips for using praise effectively.
Don’t wait for perfection. Praise effort. Laud improvement. Applaud small
Catch people doing things right. Praise their work. Thank them for
their effort and contribution.
Praise things that are praiseworthy. Don’t tell a subordinate that he
or she is doing well if it’s not true. Don’t call performance excellent
when it’s marginally acceptable.
Don’t even praise everything that’s good. Praise is most effective when
it’s delivered inconsistently. But there’s plenty to praise out there, probably
much more than you realize until you start looking.
Boss’s Bottom Line
If at first they don’t succeed, praise, praise again.