Your word of encouragement during any team member failure is worth more than an hour of praise after company success.
OK, you’re a successful leader or business owner. You invested in your team, and it has paid off in engagement and positive working relationships. Where do you go from here? How do you continue the praise and rewards that got you here? Your praise and rewards work well for a limited time, but at some point, you need a team dynamic to develop or you’ll lose momentum.
No matter who it is, everyone performs better if we feel positive, valued and that what we do matters (which is why we are doing it). This is where ongoing regard can go a long way to developing your team; indeed, it will pay off in higher quality returns from your team than any rewards offered.
As an entrepreneur or leader, practice the language of regard. Because you’re busily engaged in growing your company, you may be stingy with your communication, indirect and non-specific, too quick to characterize others as a type of person – and these diminish your ability to develop an atmosphere of regard. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, in their book, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work, advise that communicating successfully must include specific, direct language, and we must use non-attributive language. Here are three of their suggestions, what I call secrets:
#1 Use Specific Language: Since communications are often general, we end up expressing more about our good feeling than what the staff member actually did. Avoid generalities like, “Joe, at the safety briefing last week, I thought you were great. I'm so glad that you were on this project with us!”
Joe may feel good for the moment, but your comment doesn’t lay groundwork for further growth. Specific compliments pay off for now and in the long-term relationship.
#2 Be Direct: Directness lends power to your appreciation. Praise your team by speaking well of them in front of others, like at the weekly adjustment meeting. You might be tempted to say it like this: “I just want to shout out appreciation to Bob who went out of his way to…”
This communication is in the third person, and is essentially being delivered to the group. Instead, speak directly to the target of your admiration, in front of the group: "Bob, thank you for going out of your way to..."
#3 Be Non-Attributive: Carefully use your words to compliment specific accomplishments, not to confer attributes on someone. That is, don’t characterize the other person. Instead, describe your experience in working with them.
This can be the most difficult of the three points to put into practice. Instead of telling Julie, “I want to tell you how much I appreciate how generous you are,” use a comment such as, “Julie, I want to tell you that your generosity in yesterday’s negotiations broke the tension.”
Using the above three secrets will result in honest, effective encouragement of your team, will help you be a more powerful communicator, and will help you leverage your team while growing your company. OK, so now you’re really a successful leader or business owner.
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