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Emma Littmoden

The Living Leader


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Blog: Finding the right way to praise


What positive news there was in the HR press in the past week.

Not only did support services firm Capita post a 6% rise in profit amid some pretty tough economic conditions, but  the ‘headline news’ was the fact that the company’s Chief Executive noted that the climb was partly down to “outstanding” members of staff.
How often do leaders take the time to recognise the efforts of those around them? And, more importantly perhaps, how often to leaders think they recognise those around them, but actually fall short of the mark?
Recognition is an integral part of the human resources function. Many companies have dedicated teams for employee benefits, but how many HR directors are ensuring that the leaders within their business are praising others in an authentic and whole-heartedly way? This is when it can accelerate growth and improve performance.
Commonly, leaders fail to recognise employees, believing that payment is recognition enough, but even when they do, their approach can mean that the effect is brief and not as powerful as it could be – often this realisation is one of the surprising ‘take aways’ from our management leadership training programmes.
By way of example, if you were the one being praised for your part in a successful client meeting, which of these is likely to have more impact for you:
  1. Thanks for your contributions, it made all the difference
  2. Thanks for your contribution – the way you dealt with that last question with confidence and composure really helped the client to understand exactly what our support will mean for them and I think that made the important difference.
Ironically, the sentiment in both is the same, but the impact on the person receiving the recognition is likely to be significantly different. Just by taking the time to identify ‘what’ it was specifically that you noticed them do or say to help achieve great results demonstrates that your praise is authentic and will have a far greater impact on that person.

Here we always talk about making small shifts in the way we, as leaders, behave, and when we make these small shifts we see transformational changes in overall performance both personally and around us. This is something that is simple, yet really effective.

Why not try it both at work and at home? Next time you feel that you want praise those around you, try to be very specific with the words you use – not just ‘well done’, but ‘the design of this report looks great – well done’.  
Emma Littmoden is a partner at leadership programme provider, The Living Leader.
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Emma Littmoden


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