Another Way to Motivate Employees: Try Building a Culture of Praise

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Oct 3, 2013

If you’re like most managers, you want to motivate employees — the problem is how.

You could try bonuses, regular reviews, occasional hand slapping, or something else, but here’s the one powerful idea many of us forget: Praise.

Everybody wants to call out an employee’s bad behavior; too few remember to compliment the good.

Charles Schwab said, “I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth a greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.” He was right.

When your employees are surrounded by encouragement and affirmation about their efforts, they’re motivated to continue doing good work. So take a look at your workplace environment. Is this the type of culture you offer? It should be.

Here’s how to build a culture of praise at your firm:

Give verbal encouragement

A genuine “well done” from leadership is a powerful motivator for employees.

Everybody likes to be noticed and encouraged, including the members of your team, and this doesn’t have to be complicated. Just say “thank you” and “you nailed that” and so on, and you’re well on your way to creating a positive workplace environment. R

Rather than riding your staffers about their mistakes, try praising what they’re doing right, out loud. When you praise the positive, you fan the flames of more good work.

Be specific

Telling an employee you appreciate his or her work is good; telling an employee you appreciate the way he or she stuck with last week’s complicated research project, even when the deadlines kept changing, is better.

Be specific about what you’re praising, and you come across as authentic. What’s more, your praise comes across as more meaningful.

Be genuine

Speaking of being authentic, the surest way for praise to backfire is to be fake about it.

Employees aren’t stupid, and they can tell when you’re just checking off “praise employee” from your to-do list. So match your praise to the work actually done, and say what you mean. Otherwise, you create worse morale than if you had said nothing.

Before praising an employee, ask yourself what he or she is doing that is making your company better. Take time to notice good work before praising it — then you can speak from the heart.

Be fast

Here’s a quick tip worth remembering: When an employee goes above and beyond, don’t put off recognizing him or her.

The longer you wait, the less meaningful the praise becomes. Give your affirmation quickly to have the greatest impact.

Praise publicly

When you praise the marketing team at a company-wide meeting, you double the impact of your encouragement. Not only do your marketing personnel feel publicly affirmed, but also other staff members recognize that you reward good work.

Use board meetings and staff retreats to appreciate your people, and you create a culture of praise.

Show respect for an employee’s knowledge

Asking for advice and feedback might seem like a strange thing to do with your employees, but that’s only because you’re not practicing a culture of praise.

Look at your staff. Who knows his or her stuff? Who’s consistently productive? Who has the highest customer reviews?

When you notice something positive about a team member, talk to him or her about it. Ask exceptional employees how they do it. Give them a chance to share their expertise. This shows respect and strongly improves morale

How are you currently practicing these affirming tips, and how could you improve? Would your staff members say they feel appreciated, or are they often overlooked?

It’s never too late to change your habits and move towards a more positive work culture. Start today by looking at your employees and telling them that you appreciate what they do.

Then, don’t be surprised when more than their morale changes. You might end up liking your office culture a whole lot more, too.