Why for the most part we will not hesitate to praise a child for even making a feeble attempt at a task; but for the adults with whom we work; it’s like pulling teeth for some leaders to give praise. Praise and recognition reap far more reward than it takes to give. Or, am I making an assumption here?
Is it that leaders who don’t regularly praise and recognize their team individually and collectively; could it be they find it difficult to give praise? To acknowledge others for what they have done well? Makes me think back to my own actions in this arena towards the very people who help me make our corporation work. I realized though I train, coach and mentor others in this area of developing people- if I am not careful, I too will fall short of giving the requisite praise and recognition on an ongoing basis.
I noticed the busier my day, the harder I must work to deliberately remember to start off every feedback/coaching session by first acknowledging the person. I know this is the right thing to do. I know it returns incredible results. Yet, I must be doubly conscious and deliberate during busier than normal times to do this simple, yet powerful act of human development. Why is this so?
Well, as is the case with most things humans, it goes back to our prehistoric ancestors programming of our ‘lizard brain’. This is the part of our brain that has not evolved at all and consequently ‘remembers’ all the things we need to be cautious and keenly aware of. Those sights, sounds, smells and actions that spell DANGER!!!
Yes, our brain; at least the amygdala-‘lizard brain’ is wired to look for danger. This part of our brain, also no surprise ( or surprise!) tends to remember not the good things but the bad things!
Now, put this genetic trait with the other personality preferences that makes it hard for some leaders to freely, regularly and comfortably give praise and recognition; boy do you know have an emotional soup that’s not for everybody!
Awhile back one of my clients shared a wonderful story about the power behind praise. He had to give feedback to one of his direct reports who had difficulty arriving to work on time. He was late a number of time and required corrective feedback.
My client was grinning ear to ear when he shared how he was deliberate in finding something to acknowledge the direct report for first, before actually addressing the issue. Which, according to my client, created such a transformation in the direct report! The client was able to create a positive space, earn the direct report’s full attention and better able to raise and address the lateness issue in a more positive tone.
The flip side would be to let into the direct report. Fire a million questions at him as to why he can’t arrive at work on time. ( This kind of language is accusatory and designed to deliver more of the same negative behaviour) All this would only result in the direct report wanting to protect himself the ‘lizard brain’ kicks in and says danger! Protect yourself! So they stop listening and instead of coming up with solutions, they start thinking up excuses or reasons for the behaviour.
There are also those leaders whose confidence in their own abilities tends to be on the lower side of things. Because of this they tend to shy away from giving their direct reports the very thing they need most! I had a conversation with a leader who was four months into his role as team manager. First time holding this position so naturally he was a little gun-shy.
Followup session, he still had not set up a meeting with the team. With a few discovery -type questions asked of him, he shared he wasn’t feeling ready to meet with them. He didn’t believe he could hold a proper coaching session with them. He just didn’t feel confident with his skills and ability to coach others.
This proves the saying, ‘you can’t give what you don’t have’ to be true.
Bottom-line, there is great return on your investment when you pour into people. Develop them by bypassing the ‘lizard brain’s natural leaning toward the negative and instead give genuine praise and recognition to your people. Rather than having to fire them- you can fire them… up!
Practice giving progressive feedback on an ongoing basis. When giving corrective feedback, keep the 6-Steps below in mind: