Praise is one of the most powerful things a leader can offer their team. When delivered well (and well-deserved), praise gives people the drive and motivation to continue doing the caliber of work they want to see. It’s not always easy to know when or how to praise people on your team. You only want to reward great performance, and it’s easy for routines to make you blind to steady, reliable work.
Use these 6 approaches to make sure you’re not missing any opportunities to thank and reward those on your team deserving of recognition:
1. Recognize a project hero
Did someone on your team go the extra mile on a recent project? Is there anyone that was critical to its success? Don’t let them go unnoticed.
A simple note thanking them or some personal recognition in your 1 on 1 meeting with them can make all the difference. A moment of thanks to them can be all the fuel they need to want to keep working that hard for you and the team. Try something like:
“Thanks for your hard work on the last project, Anthony. Your extra effort helped us deliver it on time and really wowed the customer. We couldn’t have made it happen without you.”
If you were working extra hard on every project and no one seemed to care, would you stick around? Probably not. Don’t do that to your team, especially for those making the biggest impact on your key projects.
2. Notice your unsung heroes
“Reliable”, “consistent”, and “trustworthy” are the kinds of characteristics most managers would look for in a potential hire. Yet, once you hire them, it’s often exactly the people exemplifying them most that you take for granted. Don’t forget your unsung heroes.
Even the most junior person on your team, the lowest paid, or the ones that do the most repetitive work, deserve and will appreciate, praise.
If you imagine everything would fall apart, or not sure what you’d do without someone, make sure you tell them thanks from time to time. You may be surprised how far a little appreciation, and perhaps a thoughtful gift, can go to continue to fuel and motivate your unsung heroes.
3. Dig into their work and find something you like
As your team grows, it becomes harder and harder to keep a close eye on the work of everyone on your team. What you see, versus all the things they actually do behind the scenes can be very different.
It’s easy to catch a problem in someone’s project: a bug, a typo, a grammatical error. Unfortunately, if you only focus on what’s wrong, you can discourage your team.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your praise to criticism ratio, take 5 minutes and dig into recent work by one of your team members. Look for more than what’s wrong. Find things you like and praise them for it.
As with all workplace praise, the more specific you can be with them, the better it will be received. If they know you’re paying attention, they’re more likely to keep putting in the effort you want to see.
4. Praise what your team loves about each other
You may be surprised to learn that one of the most effective ways to give praise doesn’t require you to think about what you’re going to say to a team member – you can let their colleagues do that for you.
Your team will often know who’s doing a great job, sometimes even better than you. And praise from your peers can feel particularly special, because you interact with them every day to complete your work.
And for anyone on your team that you don’t seem to be hearing positives from their peers, that may be a sign to investigate where you may need to coach that person and improve them.
5. Pick something to change and praise any demonstration of that change
So far, we’ve focused on your best performers. To keep them motivated and not looking for work and approval elsewhere, you need to recognize them.
But what about those that may be struggling? Praise can help them, too. When you’re trying to turn around an underperformer, or just coach up someone’s weakness, praise can make all the difference. It takes hard work and focus to improve at something you’re struggling with.
Think about when you were a kid trying to learn to ride a bike, throw a ball, or learn to read. You had to fail many times before you succeeded. And what helped you keep trying? A friend, family member, or parent, encouraged you. While we’re not kids anymore, we are still motivated by praise and recognition. If you’re trying to get someone to improve, praise them when they start doing what you ask them to.
Letting people know you’re paying attention, and feeding the seedling of better performance with praise, can help those on your team struggling to stay on the path to improvement.
6. Tie their efforts to a bigger purpose
Recognition for a job well done can go a long way towards making people feel good about their work. But, if you want to really praise like a pro, you’ll also remember another key to motivating your team: Purpose.
The benefit of having their job wasn’t enough. Only when the workers understood the good that was done with the money they raised, did it have an impact on their work. When you’re working with your team, keep in mind your higher purpose.