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Elements of Highly Effective Praise

By November 16, 2013 May 6th, 2020 No Comments

I recently read an article written in March last year by Jeff Haden, a leading author on business management and broadcaster in America, and felt that the points he made still resonate perfectly in today’s business, so many of his comments have been embedded in this article. 

Let’s start with a fun exercise: Think about an old boss you didn’t get on with. On a scale of one to 10 -no, you can’t use negative numbers -how would you rate his or her skills when recognising, praising, and rewarding hard work and achievement?

If you’re like most people, you probably give them a two, or at most a three.

Now for the hard bit. Try to rate yourself the same way. How well do you recognise and praise your employees? That exercise might not be quite as much fun if you are honest.

Effective employee recognition is mostly art, not science. That’s why most formal recognition programs never deliver what they promise: It’s easy for employees to spot an insincere, “we need to put something in place” recognition program.

Just follow these simple tips to give your employees the recognition they deserve:

Don’t wait. Time is of the essence.

The more time that passes between great performance and recognition of the behaviour, the lower the impact and the value of that recognition to the staff member. Immediate recognition is never too soon.

Be specific.

Generic praise is nice but specific praise is wonderful. Don’t just tell an employee she did a good job; tell her how she did a good job. Not only will she appreciate the gesture, she will also realise that you pay attention to what she does, and what matters to you.

And she’ll know exactly what to do the next time in a similar situation.

Be genuine.

Who can remember a boss who walked around the office every Friday afternoon at 1 p.m.?

He  was likely to have said something warm and fuzzy—albeit vague and generic— to employees during his little tour, but you could probably tell he was just checking off a box on his to-do list. (Friday, 1 p.m.  Check in with troops and make them feel appreciated). Wrong!!!

Never praise for the sake of praising. It’s obvious to everyone, and you lessen the impact when you really do mean what you say.

Save constructive feedback for another time.

Many bosses just have to toss in a little feedback while praising an employee. For example, they might say, “That was great how you handled the customer’s complaint, but next time you might also consider…” and all the employee hears is what they should do next time.

Save performance improvement discussions for later.

Be surprising.

Birthday presents and long service awards are nice, but unexpected rewards make an even bigger impact. Unexpected recognition is always more powerful. Winning “Employee of the Month” is a good achievement, but receiving a surprise visit from the Managing Director or business owner to recognise a staff member who won back a lost client is awesome.

Strike a balance.

It’s easy to recognise some of your best employees—they’re always doing great things.  (But maybe, consistent recognition is one of the reasons why they’re your best employees.)

Find ways to spread the positive feedback wealth. You might have to work hard to find reasons to recognise some of your less than stellar employees, but that’s okay. A little encouragement may be all an average performer needs to turn the productivity corner.

Create a recognition culture.

It’s easy: Just make recognition something you measure. For example, why not start every management meeting by having each supervisor share an example of employees in their team that they recognised or praised that week. It might seem cheesy and forced at the beginning, but it will pay dividends in the long run.

Treat employees like snowflakes.

Every employee responds differently to recognition. Many appreciate public praise. Others cringe if they’re made the center of attention. Know your employees and tailor your recognition so it produces the greatest impact for each individual.

And remember:

Recognising effort and achievement is self-reinforcing. When you do a better job of recognising your employees, they tend to perform better.

And that has a positive impact on brand image, corporate performance and shareholder value, which gives you even more achievements to praise. So what have you got to lose?

If you would like to learn more about the benefits of recognising your staff give the Brownie Points team a call on 03 9909 7411 or email us at


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