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Be A Praise Dispenser
Employ the Power of Praise
To Reward and Incent

By Craig Harrison


Workplace surveys constantly remind us that what employees realistically want more than money, titles and corner offices, is recognition and appreciation. They want to be noticed. They want to be appreciated. They want recognition for their efforts. So simple, yet so wanting.

What does it cost to praise an employee, recognize a colleague or acknowledge appreciation of someone else’s efforts? According to Cindy Ventrice, author of Make Their Day! Employee Recognition That Works: "57 percent of the most meaningful recognition received is absolutely free. No budget, special equipment or legislation is required. Just a willingness to extend oneself." Toastmasters around the world already understand this.

Many coaching clients confide in me their manager doesn’t recognize them or their relationship partner isn't praiseworthy, and thus they feel unappreciated. Yet when I ask them if they praise their own direct reports, or compliment their mate, they sheepishly reply: "On occasion." Other times they murmur: "That's not my style" or simply say "They know I appreciate them." Herein lies the problem.

Some of us grew up in environments devoid of positive feedback. We’ve come to believe we either don’t deserve it, or perhaps convince ourselves we don’t need it. We tell ourselves:  "I'm tough, I'm strong." After all, we're adults. We're professionals! We don’t need the strokes or handholding. Payment is our reward. Yet our ability to receive praise when given feeds our foundation of success.

The Power of Praise

A heartfelt compliment, genuine kudos or a well-placed pat on the back goes a long way toward expressing the appreciation you feel. American humorist, writer and playwright Mark Twain stated it well: "I can live for two months on a good compliment."

There’s power in the praise you give to those in your life. And a funny thing happens, too. When you give it to others you get it back in return. Whether recognition comes from the party you praised, or elsewhere, payback is a beautiful thing!

Praise The Toastmaster

Toastmasters understand the power of praise more than most. In our evaluations we temper our criticism with praise for what a speaker is already doing effectively. We sandwich criticism with praise on either side to ensure recipients internalize that which they've done well. (I've heard it jokingly called "kiss 'em, kick 'em and kiss 'em.")

Payment in Praise

Let's face it, in Toastmasters we don’t have lavish budgets to dispense bonuses for members doing things right or performing roles well. We can't give members promotions to new offices, extra vacation time or fanciful titles as rewards for commendable performance. But we can certainly lavish them with well-deserved praise, both publicly and privately. It's a powerful form of currency we as humans are under-utilizing.

According to Dr. Elayne Savage, Psychotherapist, communication coach and author of Don't take it personally — The art of dealing with rejection: "Praise is both a reward and a motivation. If we don't get rewarded for certain behavior we'll start slacking off. We don’t try quite as hard or put as much energy or time into it. We all want the attention. The bottom line: we need that validation, whether we admit it or not. We need the reward."

Dr. Savage, a member of Emeryville Toastmasters continues: "Praise is also a motivator to do more things, think out of the box, be creative, or whatever we've been complimented on. We enhance those qualities. That's why it's important to be specific when giving praise. Specific praise given will inform the direction a person grows in. They receive it and decide Oh, this is what's important!"

Not All Praise Is Equal!

The power of praise derives from the combination of words spoken and their source. When your buddy says "good job" it may not carry the same cache as a similar acknowledgement from your club president or area governor. In the work world recognition from managers (from supervisor to senior management) accounts for a full 70 percent of the most meaningful recognition employees receive, according to Cindy Ventrice, workplace recognition expert and author of Make their Day.

So be advised: your words of support for other Toastmasters carry the weight of what you say, how you say it, who else hears it and who you, the issuer of the praise, is. If you, as a veteran Toastmaster, praise a newcomer it will simultaneously encourage and inspire them.

PEZ: Praise & Encourage with Zeal

Ultimately, we as Toastmasters, like those popular Pez candy dispensers, can reward achievement with praise and also leave a sweet taste on achievers' mouths that leaves them poised to earn more!

Putting the Power of Praise into Action: Steps to Success

  • Identify colleagues, co-workers and others who are praiseworthy.
  • Now deliver heartfelt praise, whether privately or publicly.
  • Don't combine praise with criticism — it diminishes or even negates the praise.
  • Beware of hyperbole. Simply give your praise honestly and with love.
    ("He who praises everybody, praises nobody." — Samuel Johnson)
  • See the reaction of the person you are praising.
  • Meanwhile, how do you feel when you have praised someone else?

Congratulations, you've just become a Praise Dispenser
and created a win-win.

Praise be thou!!!

© Copyright 2009 Craig Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

Craig Harrison DTM, a Past District Governor, is a member of Toastmasters' Leadership Club (910103-57) in Oakland, CA. As principal of Expressions of Excellence!™, Craig dispenses praise in his keynotes, training and coaching. For more resources visit www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com


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