Part of every manager’s job is to highlight what is unsatisfactory in a person’s performance – and to help them to resolve the issue.
But feedback must be fair, and if managers deliver only negative feedback, employees can lose confidence, become defensive – and even consider moving job.
Think about it. Do you perform better and become more positive with encouragement? Well so do your people.
As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric put it: “Building self-confidence in others is a huge part of leadership”. Genuine appreciation from you, the manager, can taste better than anything – even a pay rise!
The question is: how do you give praise in a professional way? Here I’ve provided a simple four step process.
How to give praise – a 4 step process
Make it clear what exactly the praise is for.
The first step in giving praise is to make it clear what exactly the praise is for.
General compliments like “Good job!” certainly have their place, especially when you are short on time. But precise feedback does much more – it allows you to have a real conversation about employee performance and development, and shows the recipient that you are paying attention to what they do.
So when you do give praise, make sure you are specific! For example: “It’s amazing to see that you’ve cleared the backlog – well done, I never thought we’d manage that so quickly!” or “I like the way you handled the visitors from XYZ company – you made a really positive impression.”
Identify a specific strength or skill that was used.
The second step in giving praise is to highlight a specific skill or personal quality that was used in earning the positive feedback. What specifically did he or she do well? Was any particular skill or personal attribute put to use?
The point here is not merely to give praise that makes the employee feel good, but to give praise which rewards and reinforces the skill or behaviour that produced the excellent work in the first place – leading to continued performance improvement.
For example: “I particularly appreciate how you tackled the new website. It demanded a great deal of persistence.” or: “You presented yourself very well and controlled the question and answer sessions with considerable tact and skill.”
Explain the overall benefit to you and the organisation.
Consistently linking the work of individuals to the objectives of the organisation as a whole is an essential aspect of leadership and a key driver of employee engagement. So use the opportunity of giving praise to explain to the recipient the benefit of his or her actions or behaviour to the organisation as a whole.
For example: “Thanks to you our department have exceeded target by 20% and I’ve heard that we will be highlighted in the company news update.” or: “The customer you were speaking with now completely understand the benefits of our system and see us as the leader in our field.”
Provide appropriate follow up actions.
After you have told a staff member exactly what he or she did well and have shown its value to you and the organisation, the next step is to encourage the recipient to build on their performance with an appropriate follow-up task.
This might mean assigning an added responsibility, asking the recipient to lead the next project, or having him or her commissioned to train and mentor new employees.
So there you have it – a simple four step process for giving praise. You may not want to follow this process exactly – the key is to be specific and consistent. Giving praise professionally and effectively should be a central habit of anyone in a management role.