To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!

To praise or not to praise? I believe that the short answer is “praise”, but, if I leave it there, the blog post would be a tad short and probably not too useful, so, here are my further musings!

As those with a fundamental knowledge and understanding of human psychology know, what we human beings like, or rather need, is to be treated kindly, to feel valued, appreciated and loved. It is, quite simply, part of being the social creatures that we are!

When we get signals from others that this is the case such as when we are authentically treated kindly and  praised by someone, our amazing brains release fabulous hormones – chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin. This gives us a feel-good hit and, quite simply, we feel good.

For those of you who are interested in the neurochemistry and neuroscience, serotonin is released when we feel proud or valued and oxytocin when people are kind to us and we feel liked or loved. N.B. Love, in a workplace and leadership as opposed to a romantic sense, is defined here as having a sense of appreciation for and closeness to others.

For a great explanation of the importance of these and other neurotransmitters read Simon Sinek “Leaders Eat Last” – link here to one of the many places where it is available :- http://www.amazon.com/Leaders-Eat-Last-Together-Others/dp/1591845327

 So why is praise important? When we feel proud, valued and appreciated, our brains are running on great neurochemistry and we are more likely to feel positive, motivated, learn quickly, be creative and perform well.

 Praise

So, as a leader and, in fact, as a human being, which of your behaviours will help your team or your peers or your own leaders to feel supported, proud and valued?

Lead in a way that cultivates a culture where praise and celebration at all levels,  are the hallmarks of your style as a team or organisation. Be strong and kind – they can blend well together!  Spread the praise around too….. after all, your peers and your own leaders have a right to their own great neurochemistry too. It can be lonely at the top – who praises the leaders?

Many leaders and managers wait for formal 121’s or even for appraisal time to deliver praise and positive feedback to employees. My question is – why wait?

As a manager,  you are with your team most days.  It follows therefore that most days there will be positive behaviours and minor or major successes that you can use to deliver authentic feedback to your staff. I believe that authentic, time relevant praise – that is specific to an individual, even better, specific to an individual’s action or behaviour is worth its weight in gold.

“What about the need to let people know about their mistakes and shortcomings?”  I hear some of you say…. Well, think about it. We do indeed all make mistakes and have development needs. I believe strongly that the development feedback, delivered kindly in the context of a culture of praise and success, will be more likely to generate change in the employee. In the following example, which employee is more likely to develop and thrive?

  1. The one who is told to improve and given feedback on all of the reasons why he or she is not making the grade and thus feels demoralised and undervalued?

Or

2. The one who gets praised when he or she does well, is supported to develop in areas where improvement is needed and can work on making further improvements from a foundation of confidence and self-worth?

As an emotionally intelligent leader, and one who is keen to further develop EQ, you can tailor praise and feedback to suit the individual styles of team members. One style does not fit all! Experiment and ask for feedback on your feedback – it’s always useful.

Want to know more about the importance and value of praise and of helping people to feel important and valued? Here is a link to a great article highlighting research that supports the ideas within this blog post. https://www.virgin.com/entrepreneur/praising-employees-leads-to-higher-productivity-research-finds

My recommendation, start to make praise and positive feedback part of everyday conversations and ……let me know what you notice.

Until next time

Bridget.

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