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When it comes to praise, we’re all guilty of being stingy. Not generally in life, but at the workplace we find it hard to praise someone. In no way am I suggesting that we’re mean and ungrateful people. Generally speaking, if we’re at a restaurant and the food’s good, we’re quick to compliment the chef. When we’re playing with our children and they, for example, kick the ball well, we’ll shower them with praise. But when it comes to our colleagues, employees or team members we end up being stingy with praise.

Think about it this way, when we praise a chef for the awesome meal they prepared we’re actually thanking them and basically making them feel good about themselves. When we praise our children it’s to build their self-confidence and encourage specific good behavior. Isn’t that the same we want for our team members?

There could be several reasons why you tend to be stingy with praise. Maybe it’s because you:

  • don’t want to overdo it,
  • don’t want to appear insincere,
  • are holding out praise for special occasions or when it really matters,
  • don’t see the right things and are too focused on what’s wrong,
  • don’t want to appear lenient or too easy-going, or
  • want to drive your team to push harder and achieve more.

For all these reasons and more, we’re all guilty of being too stingy with praise. In many of the engagement surveys we’ve conducted, feeling recognized constantly stands out as a low scorer. So while we’re not praising enough, our team members are desperately seeking it. Hence, it’s probably a good idea to shake off this bad habit and get a move on things – praising for starts. Here’s how we all can improve on this.

1. Make Little Things Count

It’s in our nature to expect being honored and praised for exceptional achievements. You’re your team members are fishing for is exceptional rewards for their significant achievements. While that expectation is warranted, the reality is that breakthrough achievements are infrequent, leaving your team feeling deprived of praise. Your focus should then be to praise smaller achievements, irrespective of how significant or impactful they are. A job well done shouldn’t go unnoticed. Try simple mementos like handwritten ‘Thank You’ notes for someone who’s handled a difficult customer, taken initiative, or foregone a family obligation and worked later than usual. On the surface, these little things may not be huge achievements, but their commitment surely is praiseworthy.

2. Praise Individuals Privately and Groups Publicly

Most ‘company annual award ceremonies’ end the same way – employees questioning why others were selected for awards and not them. Sure, there’s an argument that highlighting individual performance in a group sets precedence and validates exemplary behavior. Of course, you want to praise your top performers and high achievers by awarding them well, but at the expense of needless debate and bickering? Try praising publicly those achievements that stand out as remarkable work practice. Achievements that can’t be challenged or disputed tend to serve the purpose that you’re aiming for. For all other achievements it’s best to praise individuals privately and teams or groups publicly.

3. Focus on Process Not Results

Rewards have an uncanny way of being misinterpreted for what they actually mean and aim to achieve. Praise and rewards are not just simple ‘pats on the back’ and celebration of results achieved. They serve one main purpose – and that’s to encourage behavior. So when you’re about to reward and praise your team member, first ask yourself “is this the behavior I’m encouraging?” That’s why it’s important to focus on processes rather than results. This way you’re encouraging people to do the ‘right thing’ instead of cutting corners and taking unethical measures to achieve results.

4. There’s No Such Thing as Enough Praise

Praising is quite similar to conveying a message – you just can’t do enough of it. Being stingy with praise will breakdown communications and links between you and your team. The more you praise and more you’ll connect with your team and align them to your vision. You may think that doing it too often will dilute the effect and may seem like you’re going overboard. But, if you’re sincere in your praise your team will receive it with much delight and it’ll serve the purpose you’re aiming for. Think of it this way, would you tell your boss to stop recognizing your work and efforts? I didn’t think so!

If you’re aiming to have a highly engaged, high performing and highly inspired team you’ll stop being stingy with praise and shower them with your appreciation. So without any further delays, go praise your team and the wonderful work they do!