Your employees want to believe your praise is (a) valid and (b) sincere. That’s because they want to believe that (a) they deserve it and (b) it will ultimately result in some positive action from you. (Such as a raise.)
Dish out the same praise routinely (“Good job!”), and your employees will start to wonder if you are really paying attention — and even if you care. They may see you as a boss who is trying to do the right thing, but is perhaps taking your cue from management magazines.
An effective compliment has two characteristics:
1. It is specific.
2. It is delivered with genuineness.
So tell the person being complimented exactly what it is about his behavior or performance that you like. Say, for example, “The comment you made at the meeting this morning showed me that you had put some serious thought into it. That’s a good quality for a staff attorney, Jeff. It makes me feel comfortable to know that when important legal issues arise, you will think about them carefully before you make a recommendation.”
Notice that this compliment is specific not only as to “what” but also as to “why.” That tells the person what he should continue to do in the future. And it gives him insight into the results you are looking for.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]