Who needs praise?

Have you ever noticed that some managers are loathe to praise their employees? You’d think they had to pay for every compliment out of their own pocket! We’ve learned that praise, positive reinforcement, has proven to be one of the best ways to motivate stellar performance yet we still find managers hiding behind these classic excuses.
“I don’t have to praise them. Their pay is their praise.”
“So long as I’m not getting on their case they know they’re doing a good job.”
“I don’t have time to praise them!”
And perhaps the scariest of all, “Hey, nobody’s praising me!”
Talk about symptoms of a dysfunctional workplace!

There are some people who don’t like or are uncomfortable with praise. It’s important to recognize if you have someone like this on your team, but for the most part, people want praise the way teenagers want the iPhone5. People are feedback junkies and once they’ve gotten a taste of it, they want more. I knew someone who said he’d work harder for a thank you than a hundred dollar bill. Because he’d forget what he spent the hundred on but he’d remember the praise for years. Another worker described in detail how one time at a corporate event, an executive vice president clapped him on the shoulder, called him by name and thanked him for something he’d done on the job earlier that week. He described it so vividly, I asked when this had happened. He told me it was seven years ago. Time hadn’t diminished the impact of this reward. He still talked about the time Frankie T. had called him by name.

There are few more effective things managers can do to improve employees’ performance than to praise them. Managers worry that the staff will become complacent, but that’s just another excuse. As Steven Covey put it, “Catch them doing something right.” Recognizing your staff when they do something good and complimenting them on it is like making deposits in a managerial credibility bank. Then when (not if) you have to give constructive feedback, it will be surprisingly easier. Don’t worry that they’ll think you’re being hypocritical. So long as you are sincere when you give praise and honest when giving constructive, your staff will be dedicated to a manager who treats them with respect and is honestly looking out for their best interests.

Promoted for the wrong reason

This may sound odd but too many managers get promoted for the wrong reason. They get promoted because they’re good at their job. The problem is that they don’t get promoted because they’ll be good managers.

This can have a seriously detrimental effect on their businesses. Let’s say you have a really good salesperson and you promote her to be a sales manager. The very skills that made her good at sales contradict the skills necessary to be a good manager. Good salespeople tend to be solo operators, Lone Rangers. They are motivated by closing the deal, winning recognition for their sales numbers, large commissions, and praise for their sales acumen. They are interested in personal glory, winning, beating out the competition. They’re the rock stars. Now let’s look at the skill set of the sales manager.  Y’know, the one responsible for herding all those rock stars into a band.

The sales manager must be good at team building, collaboration, self-sacrifice,  and making sure everybody gets across the finish line successfully. Exactly the opposite of everything that made this person successful in their past job. So what happens? The polar opposite of win-win (funny how nobody ever talks about “lose-lose”), which is zero sum. And zero is what you’ll wind up getting from the team unlucky enough to have this prima donna as the manager. Because now you have an unprepared manager who is poorly motivated to manage the team and you’ve lost your best salesperson to boot!

You do need someone with good sales skills, or whatever technical skill in which the department is involved, to have the credibility to lead the team. Look just a little further down the food chain. Pick your second or third best salesperson. Do whatever necessary assessments you have to do to find out which one might be motivated more by the success of the team instead of individual recognition. Make that person the new manager. Then, to make sure your top person doesn’t feel snubbed, meet with that salesperson and tell her that she wouldn’t have wanted the position anyway because she couldn’t afford the cut in pay!