Celebrating Successes - The Power Of Compliments
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Years ago, when I was new in management circles, a veteran administrator
decided to share his self-described secret of success. He said: You have to be
careful, Bill. I*ve learned not to compliment my people. Makes them too
self-assured, and they get lax in their work habits. Better to keep them
As I listened, I uttered silent thanks, grateful that Don was a professional
acquaintance--and not my boss. Both intuitively and from experience, I knew that
managers build loyalty when they celebrate their employees* successes with
To use a familiar analogy, criticism has the same impact on people that salt
does on plants. Stated positively, compliments act as nutrients for people, just
as fertilizer does for flowers.
Having played golf for several decades, I remember the teaching professionals
who helped me the least--and the most. The least helpful were those who spent
the whole half hour describing my faults: bending your left arm. . .not enough
weight shift. . . tempo is too fast. Jim, my favorite pro, accents the
positives: swinging better than last time. . .hit that shot really square . .
.now that*s the way to finish in balance. Not surprisingly, I wanted to swing
better for Jim.
When I think of compliments, I remember my father*s advice. For forty years,
he managed a sizable department store. When I took my first supervisory position
in higher education, he counseled me: Bill, one thing I have learned is that
workers perform better when we let them know we appreciate their performance.
Remember to commend those who do well. Then they*ll keep improving.
During the twenty-three years I spent as a department head, I followed his
recommendation. Even a simple comment--You did a good job drafting those
letters--boosted morale and cultivated organizational loyalty.
As a communication specialist, there are several tips I will share about
Avoid flattery, say no more than the situation merits. While flattery
exaggerates our evaluation, the compliment reflects our honest opinion. For
example, if you choose to tell an employee that she handled that customer
superbly, better than anyone else could possibly have done, she might silently
question your authenticity. A more believable comment: I liked the way you
helped that customer. I*m sure you made a good impression she will remember.
An employee--just like a friend or family member--detects shallow praise.
Fortunately, when you have deep convictions about the praise you extend,
co-workers will sense your authenticity.
This leads to a second characteristic of a compliment: It sounds realistic.
If somebody told me that I am a wonderful dancer, I might laugh out loud. Sadly,
so would my wife, who has endured my errant feet for a long time.
Be timely in issuing compliments. We should give the compliment almost
immediately after the event that prompts our praise. Imagine that on Tuesday
Dorothy makes the biggest sale she has ever made. Clearly, her training has
brought beautiful results. Even fellow employees admire her accomplishments with
If you wait until Friday to compliment her, you*ve lost a grand opportunity.
Give her your attention before Tuesday ends, while she*s still aglow with pride.
Try this: Dorothy, I think you noticed that all of us were delighted with that
special order you handled today. You*ve made lots of progress, and it shows.
Another tip: Issue compliments in moderation. Managers lose credibility when
they praise employees too frequently. Like the most gorgeous flower, a
compliment becomes grander with irregular appearance. No, we can*t go as far as
my colleague Don, never issuing favorable comments. However, good judgment will
help us find the reasonable pacing that works.
Again: Use compliments in proper context. When you tell Fred late in the day
that he is one of your most dependable people, your compliment becomes suspect
when you add: Oh, by the way, Fred, you*re supposed to have Saturday off, but
I*m going to have to ask you to come in then to help us handle those weekend
wedding orders. Any time a compliment appears manipulative, it loses force. .
.and we lose face.
Yes, compliments can be chancy. Some employees might accuse us of playing
favorites, being too syrupy, or trying to win favor for our hidden agendas.
Risky, that*s true. . .but worth the risk.
When you become known for offering genuine, realistic compliments in
moderation, at the right time, and in the proper setting, you*ll notice your
employees responding positively. In fact, they will compliment you for your
thoughtfulness and encouragement.
About the Author
Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations “Finish in First Place” by
strengthening their communication, motivation, sales, and customer service. His
speeches, seminars, and communication coaching have benefited numerous clients,
including the Ritz- Carlton Cancun, Gillette, Duracell, Procter & Gamble,
Missouri Bar, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Visit his Web site to
sign up for his complimentary monthly E-mail newsletter:
http://www.ChampionshipCommunication.com Call Dr. Lampton to discuss how his
services will benefit your organization: 770-534-3425. E-mail him:
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-11-02 12:23:02 in Employee Articles