In working with businesses and organizations of all kinds, I repeatedly hear
many of the same concerns: How do we increase productivity?
How do we improve Customer service?
How do we keep people actively engaged in their work and with others on their
How do we reduce turnover?
How do we improve safety?
Even if you aren’t thinking about or concerned about every one of those
questions, I’m sure at least one of them has been on your mind in the past. As
leaders we think about these things because they impact the success of the
organization. As coaches we think about how to impact these things day-to-day,
person-by-person. As a coach, someone helping people improve their performance
for the benefit of both the individual and the organization, there are typically
two types of feedback that you could provide on performance at anytime.
Constructive feedback (sometimes called criticism) and positive feedback (which
I will call praise). Forgetting the words for a minute, these two types of
feedback are important to anyone trying to do anything better. We need to know
what we aren’t doing quite right, so we can adjust; and we need to know what we
are doing well, so we can replicate it. Makes sense doesn’t it? Now, let’s look
at the words. I looked up criticism in my thesaurus and here is what I found: 1.
censure, faultfinding, disapproval, condemnation, disparagement 2. a judgment,
evaluation, appraisal, analysis, assessment, estimation, valuation, 2 b
critique, review, commentary. I also looked up the word praise and found: “v. 1
acclaim, laud, applaud, pay tribute to, compliment, commend, eulogize, extol,
honor, sing the praises of, pay homage to, endorse…” Now, think about these two
lists of synonyms. Granted not all of them make sense in a business context, but
ask yourself these questions:
• Which of these things have I received more of in my professional life?
• Which of them motivates and inspires me to strive for greater achievement
and higher performance?
And now with your coach’s hat on, think about these questions:
• Which of these things do I share more often?
• Which will help me most inspire and motivate others to reach their
If you are like me and most everyone I’ve ever discussed this with, you have
received more negative, “constructive” feedback than positive, encouraging
feedback at work. And you believe that with more encouragement or praise you
might have been more successful more quickly. The point in two words… Praise
matters. Want more proof? According to a Gallup survey outlined in the book
How Full is Your Bucket, 61% of American workers received no praise at
work last year. 61%! And the #1 reason people leave their jobs is because the
feel unappreciated. It is undeniably true. You can prove it from your personal
experiences and from the hard data. Praise matters. And it is vastly underused
as a coaching tool by most people most of the time. As you finish reading this
and walk away from your desk and begin interacting with people (whether you
coach them or not), keep these things in mind:
• Everyone needs recognition and reassurance. Hopefully the exercise and the
data above confirm this fact for you. • Praise gives us pride in our jobs. Given
a choice, would you rather have people who take pride in their work or not?
• Praise generates enthusiasm and commitment. Committed people can work
miracles, so it pays to build commitment.
• Praise builds loyalty. What are the real and hidden costs of employee
• Praise prevents people from feeling taken for granted. When people feel
taken for granted they are less committed and loyal, aren’t they?
• Praise motivates us to “go the extra mile.” The extra mile is often where
we find satisfied Customers, higher returns and more.
• Praise improves our relationships. Would you like to have better
relationships with those you lead, coach and work with?
• Praise takes hardly any time and costs nothing. There are few things in
life that can produce such great returns for such a small investment.
Get the praise tool out of your toolbox. Dust it off and allow it to become
shiny with use. It is an easy tool to use. It is a fun tool to use. You might
even want to take it out of your mental toolbox and lay it on top of your desk
so you remember to use it more often.
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of