The Art Of Giving Recognition — How To Praise Others

The three “must do’s” and the three “should do’s”

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Are we entitled to recognition or must we earn it?

The modern approach is akin to giving everyone a trophy just for competing. Nobody feels bad for missing out, but it dampens the feel of victory. The value of the trophy plummets when everyone gets one.

When you force recognition as part of “culture,” it becomes an obligation to give it and a responsibility of the receiver to return it. You both checked off a box, but nobody benefitted.

The law of supply and demand

Give it when you feel someone’s earned it. The recipient will know he deserved it when you set the bar high.

The three “musts” of recognition and praise

These are the boxes you need to tick every time you shower someone with praise.

Recognition must be genuine

Don’t lie to satisfy a requirement or fulfill an expectation. This rule sounds obvious. When corporate trainers tell us to recognize three people in the next three days, it becomes an act of obligation. You can sense it when you’re on the receiving end. It feels cheap and disingenuous.

Recognition must be specific

Specific and narrow recognition means more to the recipient than generalized, wide-ranging praise. See these two examples.

Recognition must be significant

Recognition is not limited to herculean efforts and significant successes, but you should reserve it for work with some significance. Praising someone for showing up on time insults the recipient. It’s like saying this insignificant act of showing up to work at the required time is the best they’re capable of (in your eyes).

Praise someone for doing something beyond what you expect from them, or at least beyond what they’ve shown they’re capable of in the past.

The higher the bar you set for giving recognition, the more meaningful it becomes when you dish it out.

The three “should’s”

These suggestions are dependent on the circumstances in which you recognize someone for their excellence.

You should recognize publicly

Recognizing someone’s excellence in front of their peers is like injecting them with a double dose of dopamine. It’s not always possible to do this. Circumstances sometimes dictate that you must do it in private.

You should tailor recognition to the individual’s passion

We love it when others praise us for skills we pride ourselves in. Don’t believe me? Tell any guy he is a fantastic driver. Watch him straighten his posture and beam with pride.

You should demonstrate recognition. Don’t just tell it

It feels wonderful when someone praises you for a skill or task you enjoy doing. If the giver of recognition goes further and asks you to do more of it, she demonstrates her confidence and belief in your expertise.

  1. His boss, Sara, calls the team into a conference room. She recognizes Tim for his superior work.
  2. She asks Tim if he’d like to own the presentation responsibility going forward.
  3. Tim blushes and accepts.

“I want more of what you do best” is the most rewarding form of recognition.

Written by

Experimenter in life, productivity, and creativity. Work in Forge | Elemental | Business Insider | GMP | Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.

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