A few years ago, when I arrived for the first time at the offices of a new client, the two reception staff gave me a very warm welcome. They knew my name, they knew I was expected, they had a name badge ready for me and they made me feel right at home, helping me get where I needed to go. I felt their genuine enthusiasm and that helped me feel even more energized about being there. At the first meeting that we facilitated with their 165 employees, I took the opportunity to talk about that grand welcome. It helped everyone feel comfortable to participate and later the reception staff beamed when they told me how it felt to hear about their role in the organization. I felt that same level of welcome every time I arrived over the year I worked with them.
For most associations, the largest budget item is salaries, and financial resources to recognize good performance are thin at best. In environments with tight budgets, where the difference the organization makes can mean a difference in well-being or survival, one of the most effective ways to be appreciative is praising good work. Praise, an action that expresses warm approval or admiration for something, is one leadership practice that costs nothing and is invaluable for both the leader and the person or people receiving the recognition. Praise happens when a leader notices good things. When a leader notices good things, it means you are very aware of and present to the differences your staff is making.
The way I see it, giving praise connects people to their strengths, their talents and gifts. It’s an experience that validates more of the behavior that a leader wants to see. It affirms the contribution the person is making to the association’s work. This is especially true if the praise explicitly illustrates highly valued behavior and what makes it important to the organization. In its reinforcement of the good, praise sets an aspiration for what’s welcomed and desirable into the future. Moreover, it makes it known that the welcomed behavior is an ability within that person, not something they “should do” or “have to do,” but something that is integral to who they are. When a leader helps a person connect to their strengths, it naturally reinforces positive, productive action without forcing it. The more we feel we want to do something, the more committed we can become to doing it.
Praise even has proven health benefits for both the person giving praise, and the person receiving it. Praise shifts the brain’s neurochemistry by activating production of the hormone oxytocin. “Oxytocin is associated with bonding behaviors, and research suggests it may play a dominant role in the brain and heart as regulator of the need for social contact” (p. 37 Conversational Intelligence, Glaser 2012). When we express warm approval or admiration for something, we make a deep heartfelt connection on which trust is built and grows. That’s a place where everything feels possible.
There are a wide variety of ways to give praise. There is private verbal feedback you give directly to the person you are recognizing and public verbal feedback when the time is right and you have appropriate permissions. There is written feedback, especially in a handwritten note or cards picked especially for the person. Written feedback from clients that is shared association wide makes a big impact too. There is personalized recognition that highlights or reflects something unique about the person being recognized. Ideas here are writing a message in the native language of a staff member or selecting a small special gift that says I really know you and what you love. I happen to love frogs. In one of the most flattering forms of praise I received, a client CEO brought home from his travels a ceramic tile with a frog on it. I was touched beyond words. Still other forms of praise include creative incentives such as being selected to work on a special project, getting to use special skills outside regular job responsibilities, or having permission to pilot something new.
Praise “encourages the heart”. (“The Leadership Challenge” A Wiley Brand) (www.leadership challenge.com) What are some fresh ways you can offer praise for a job well done and at the same time reinforce important learning and trust building with your staff?
Managance Consulting & Coaching is on a mission to ignite passion and energize opportunity in association and other nonprofit organization work places. www.managance.com Denice Hinden, PhD, PCC, President and her team inspire leaders and teams to their next level of leadership and develop more trusting “we-centered” organizational cultures with transformational leadership development and engaging strategic thinking. Denice is Certified in Conversational Intelligence®. Do you have an idea you would like to explore. Contact Denice to schedule a complimentary discovery conversation – firstname.lastname@example.org – 866-481-2290.
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