Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Little Things Make a BIG Difference as a Leader - Part 5: A Pat on the Back

This is the last of a 5 part series about some of the little things you can start or stop doing that can make a BIG difference on how you are perceived as a leader.

The previous posts were:

Part 1: Show up on time
Part 2: Listen up!
Part 3: A little dose of humility
Part 4: 4 magic words

I have to tell you, this has been a much more challenging exercise than I thought it would be. I had a few things in mind when I came up with the idea, but after those, I really struggled to come up with 5. The problem is, leadership isn’t easy. The things that matter the most are often the hardest to learn.

Strategic thinking? Uh uh, waay too hard.

Leading change? Good luck with that one.

How about presentation skills? How hard that that be? While it may be one of the relatively easier leadership competencies to master, it still take a LOT of hard work, technique, and practice.

How about coaching? Nope, damn hard to learn.

Even the simple one’s I came up with can take a lot of effort to do consistently well.

I thought about stopping at 4 and hoping no one will notice. Instead, I accepted it as a leadership development puzzle to solve.

So last night I sat down with a pad and once gain asked myself – “What could I possibly teach someone in 15 minutes or less that if they did it, it would make a significant difference in how they are perceived as a leader?”

I actually came up with about a dozen more ideas. Things like “watch your language and tongue”, and “develop a good posture and handshake”… good stuff, but not very impactful.

I then looked at a few leadership 360 assessments questionnaires and competency models to see if any of my items were included.

And then I found it! The one that stood out the most?

Praise.

It meets both criteria:
It sure is simple to learn. Try this: say “Thank-you”. Now try “Thanks a lot”. And then try “Nice job”. Easy, right?

Hey, we’re only two minutes into the lesson, so we still have time to learn some of the nuances of praise, like:

- Make sure it’s timely
- ….and specific
- ….and sincere

But let’s not overcomplicate it. Try taking baby steps. Set a goal to praise one person a day, either at work or home.  

2. It makes a BIG difference. I don’t care what generation you’re from, X, Y, Z, or whatever, or what culture, race, or gender, EVERYONE values recognition and praise. It’s a mega-motivator.

However, for some reason, it ‘s often rated as one of the lowest skills in leadership 360 assessments and employee surveys. I don’t get it – it doesn’t cost anything, there’s an unlimited supply, and people crave it like a drug.

Leaders, give it away like candy!! Some interesting things will begin to happen. People will start to respond to you in a more positive way.

But wait….. I’ve had managers say to me “what if I overdo it?” Yikes, that would be a disaster. Think there’s a chance of that happening? How many of you have ever been praised TOO MUCH my a manager? Right.

I hope you enjoyed the series. Not that I’m like, fishing for compliments or anything…. (-:

12 comments:

Wigarse said...

Excellent :)

Timing is crucial though, I used to have a manager who seemed to know exactly when I was working my hardest and being most productive and he would choose then to ball me out over something petty. This would irritate me and cause me to slack off, at which point he would roll out the insincere praise.

The result was that I stopped trusting anything he said and, even when his praise was timely, ignored it.

Timing is everything.

DC Jobs said...

I think the amount of praise applied exists across a spectrum where both extreme ends represent a less than ideal approach.

If a manager uses too much praise then it can loose its effectiveness. If on the other hand, like the comment above, the manager tongue-lashes his employees when they are doing their best work, then the work environment is going to get toxic really quickly.

Dave Moran said...

I agree completely! Praise is underutilized, and as a manager I've been guilty of not praising enough myself. But praise does help create and maintain an engaged, productive workforce. When people feel unappreciated, you won't get their best.

Mackenzie said...

Dan, I think this was a fantastic way to finish off your series. Praise is like that illusive #5: it sums up the job completed but is often easier to just forget about. Great leaders remember to praise efforts which merit it. This lets people know they are valuable and can be a huge step towards building trust. Great post!

David said...

Dan,
Great advice and I could not agree more. The use of praise is extremely effective at reinforcing behavior. It should be used as often as possible.

Tim said...

Thanks for a great 5th little thing - this has been a great series!

When I talk leadership development I always try to emphasize focused efforts (focus on less, and truly FOCUS on it). These Five Little Things have provide a wonderful balance of impact and simplicity that lend themselves naturally to focused effort.

Thanks again!

Carl said...

Very good point Dan. Bonuses and rewards can come from time to time throughout the year, but these forms of "thank you's" are easily forgotten. Simply saying "thank you" or "you did a good job on that project" means a lot, increases morale, and reinforces the idea that what you are doing is important and is appreciated. And as you said, these things are easy to do and cost nothing.

Liza said...

I have been following your series and agree with all 5 suggestions you outlined as the little things leaders can do that make a difference. While praise may not have ranked with high importance in the 360 feedback and employee surveys you reviewed, praise for a job well done is equally if not more important than financial incentives. Financial incentives (bonuses) are often viewed of by employees as set by the company, they are given once a year and soon forgotton. Praise for a job when done can be given throughout the year. When praise is given in front of others it gives employees a sense of pride and motivates employees to continue to perform at high levels. In our company we often do surveys to determine what is important to employees and praise or a pat on the back for a job well done is ranked in the top 3.

Dan McCarthy said...

Wigarse -
Thanks, agree, timing is important.

DC Jobs -
Agree, but again, I've NEVER heard anyone say their manager goes overboard with praise. NEVER.

Mackenzie -
Thanks, glad you enjoyed the series.

David, Tim, Carl -
Thanks!

Liza -
Thanks for following!
I didn't mean that praise was not highly valued - it's that managers are often ranked lowest in this area.

Dan McCarthy said...

Wigarse -
Thanks, agree, timing is important.

DC Jobs -
Agree, but again, I've NEVER heard anyone say their manager goes overboard with praise. NEVER.

Mackenzie -
Thanks, glad you enjoyed the series.

David, Tim, Carl -
Thanks!

Liza -
Thanks for following!
I didn't mean that praise was not highly valued - it's that managers are often ranked lowest in this area.

Duncan Brodie said...

Great post and great series.

Praise seems to be the cheapest form of motivation that is all too often overlooked.

Duncan Brodie
Goals and Achievements Ltd

link said...

Nice Post. I like It.