We’ve all heard the adage “what gets rewarded gets repeated.” As leaders, giving intentional praise is one of the easiest, if not the easiest, ways to reward employees. Turns out, this is also a way to improve the performance of your not so stellar employees. The key is to offer intentional praise in addition to the “off the cuff” or “on the fly” praise (which is still very powerful and important.) Here are some tips to make your praise intentional:

  • Decide that you will find something praiseworthy in a particular circumstance or person (even a difficult one.) One of the best ways to see something good in a person or situation is to go looking for it. If necessary, tell yourself “today, I will find 2 good things that Jane does” or “I will find 2 good things to share with my team that they did well during today’s team meeting.” Set your intention. Decide to find something good. Even the most difficult employees are often doing something worthy of praise. Look for it. Reward it. And, chances are, they will do more of it.
  • Decide to share your praise publicly. Research indicates that if you praise someone publicly it not only motivates the individual(s) you are praising, it motivates those around them. What a great way to impact and influence even your most difficult employees.
  • Decide to use praise that helps people understand the bigger picture and, more importantly, their role in the bigger picture. Many employees have no idea how what they do on a day-to-day basis impacts overall goals or organizational initiatives. Move beyond the “good job” level of praise and start sharing specifically how what they did makes a positive impact. Help your team know that they make a difference and they will continue to perform at high levels.
  • Decide to praise a variety of behaviors, not just things that can be measured. It can be easy to limit praise to those meeting sales goals or those with low complaint volume. The leader who wants to boost performance will also look at things like attitude, creativity, initiative, and other less obvious behaviors and praise those as well.

How a leader communicates praise is vital. Decide to be intentional. Decide to start today. Decide to find one thing worth praising before the day is done and you will be well of your way to boosting performance, even with difficult employees.

Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.