Great Business Leaders Inspire with Praise

Recognizing employee accomplishments is an essential part of management leadership. Unfortunately, most of the time I observe owners and managers carpet bombing “good jobs” and doing more harm than good. In order for praise to be effective you must use LASR precision.

In WWII, when the Allies wanted to destroy the industrial and communications complex in Dresden, Germany they employed a tactic known as “carpet bombing”. They flew over 700 aircraft and deployed 3,900 tons of high explosive “dumb” bombs, carpeting the target area in ordinance. As a result, they killed 25,000 civilians as collateral damage and created a controversial public relations nightmare that persists today.

In an effort to provide positive feedback, many managers will drop “good jobs” like so many tons of dumb bombs. Frequently to employees that haven’t done anything praise worthy. Indiscriminate praise is like carpet bombing a target, you don’t know where it is going to fall and while it may do some good it will also result in unintentional collateral damage.

Let’s look at 3 possible scenarios and see the mechanics of this effect:

1. The employee sat on their hands all day – In this case, you are rewarding and reinforcing bad behavior. Worse still, if you ever try to counsel this employee to help them improve it will fall on deaf ears. After all you have been telling them they’ve been performing well all along.

2. The employee did some good work today but the rest of the day was unremarkable or they may have even done nothing the rest of the day – This is a missed opportunity. Here you have an employee that has done some good work but by not offering LASR guided praise you missed the opportunity to reinforce good behavior. Not knowing which behaviors were praise worthy, this employee will not consciously repeat their performance.

3. The employee was a rock star all day long, dealing with one or more difficult customers and they handled the situation with aplomb – These are the employees you want to keep and nurture. The generic “good job today” will have a demotivating affect. Like the student that studies hard and aces a test, only to find out their grade will be the average of the entire class, this employee will be deflated by vague, non-specific praise provided to the group. Eventually they will feel unappreciated and their productivity will slip or they will leave to work else where. After all, why should they work hard only to have the credit diluted?

Leaders Provide Specific and Timely Acknowledgement

If WWII were fought today, the destruction of Dresden would never have happened. Today we would use smart munitions, like laser guided bombs, that are specifically targeted to destroy the factories, rail yards and communications centers while leaving the civilian housing untouched. As business leaders your “smart munitions” is laser targeted specific praise.

Photo by Program Executive Office Soldier used by permission under CC license

Photo by Program Executive Office Soldier used by permission under CC license

L = Limited to the individual or team that performed well
A = About the company core values demonstrated
S = Specific to the behavior you want to reinforce
R = Real time, give praise as close to the event or behavior as possible.

Laser targeted specific praise should be timely, as close to the praise worthy event as possible. Call out the individual or individuals by name and include what they did right and how it ties in to your core values and advances the company’s mission.

For example, let us take a customer service rep at a moving company that handles a difficult customer on the phone. The company has empathy as one of its core values and its mission is to “eliminate the stress of moving”. Laser targeted praise might be “You did a great job dealing with Mr. Jones on the telephone. I love the way you listened patiently while he vented, then validated his feelings before fixing the issue. You demonstrated empathy, one of our core values while reducing his stress, the whole reason we exist as a company, great job!” As you can see this feedback targeted specific behaviors that can be replicated and reinforced the company’s values and mission.

Your goal should be to provided LASR targeted praise daily.  It will pay deep rewards.