How to Build Team Performance Through Praise

“Yep,” the cashier said, after I said “Thank you.” He then switched eye contact to the next customer and started ringing up their purchases.

I picked up my bags and walked away, thinking, “I just spent close to $200 and didn’t even get an acknowledgement for bringing business to his store.”

But then I started wondering what his boss says when he does something good. It’s probably not even a “yep.” Most employees get little to no feedback for the work they do, unless they do something wrong.

I once heard Ken Blanchard describe this as the “seagull method” of management: Managers circle around overhead oblivious until someone does something wrong, then they swoop down to crap on them. Think about your past bosses—how often did they give you positive feedback for the work you did? What was the ratio between critical and positive comments?

There’s an old cliché, “Treat your team members like you want them to treat your very best customer.” Most of us would agree with the concept, but it rarely happens. Fewer than one in three American workers feel they’ve been praised for work well done in the last seven days, according to Gallup’s research.

Even if someone hasn’t reached their goals, you can catch them doing something that’s leading in the right direction. Praised behavior gets repeated and leads towards goal accomplishment. Ignored positive behavior fades away over time—after all, it must not be important if no one notices.

The biggest challenge is making it a habit. Whether you add it to your schedule or create a spreadsheet, be consistent in observing people in action and setting aside a few minutes each week to individually praise each member of your team for their specific contribution.

Sir Richard Branson often says, “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of your business. It’s as simple as that.”

Want loyal clients? Build loyal teams.

Keith Baldwin is a strengths-based performance coach who produces measurable performance and engagement results for entrepreneurs, teams and individuals.

From the Heart

For praise to be effective, it must be heartfelt and specific. Just saying “Good job” every day won’t have much effect—if it’s not sincere, your people will read right through you.

Look for something positive, point out the specific behavior and how it contributes to the company mission and goals, and don’t forget to thank them.

That might look like this: “Hey, June—I overheard that conversation with that frustrated client. You were really patient with him and let him vent. I know that’s not always easy. I appreciate what you do for our customers and our team!” —K.B.