In the post-Covid economy it is essential you look after your people. Your leadership style should make each team member feel more capable, confident and strong. One way to achieve this is by spending more freely with your ‘soft currency’ – the currency of praise, appreciation and positive feedback.

In this post we’re going to look at how to give praise effectively. You’re probably thinking – are there any secrets to giving praise? Surely as long as you’re sincere, that about covers it, doesn’t it?

There are in fact two rules to giving praise – these should be emphasized in all management training.

Rule 1. Be specific.

When you give praise talk about some specific attitude or skill which they have shown.

If you just say, “You’re doing a great job,” they may think that applies to every aspect of the work they do, when in reality you may have a concern about another part. Talking about some specific aspect also shows you are paying attention.

Rule 2. Reinforce a growth mindset.

This is perhaps the key management skill if you want to unlock the potential in people.

Carol Dweck from the University of Stanford has been researching the psychology of success – in the workplace, in sport, in the performing arts – for the last 30 years.

According to her work, some people have what is called a fixed mindset, and some people have a growth mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, you tend to believe your creativity, your talent, your intelligence is fixed. That’s what you are born with, that’s the way it is.

On the other hand if you have a growth mindset, you believe your creativity, your talent and your intelligence can be grown.

Carol Dweck says her research shows that the people who fulfil their potential in their chosen field tend to have a growth mindset, which poses the question – what causes either a fixed or growth mindset?

The kind of praise matters.

Her research showed that one of the causes is the kind of praise people receive particularly when they are young.

If you praise people, for their ability, for their talent, for their intelligence, then when they come up against a challenge and experience difficulty, as everyone does, their thought process is, “Maybe they lied to me, maybe I’m losing it. Maybe I’m not as bright as I thought”.

If instead you praise people for their perseverance, for the fact that they love a challenge, for their ability to handle adversity, for their persistence, then when they come up against a challenge, their thought process is different – They think “Oh I just need to persevere some more.” That is the attitude of resilience. That’s how people unlock their potential.

So when giving praise as a manager…

Avoid praising people exclusively for their ability or talent.

Instead focus your praise on the things they have control over – persistence, determination, loving a challenge.

Everyone encounters setbacks, the difference is what happens next. Those with a growth mindset regard setbacks as a learning opportunity. That’s resilience.

When you reinforce a growth mindset you are helping each person on your team to unlock their potential and you are helping yourself to build a high performance workplace.

So two rules for giving praise, One – Be specific, praise a specific skill or attitude; and Two, focus your praise on those things people have control over – determination, persistence, loving a challenge. Get those things right and your team will rocket ahead.

Learn more about LDL management training.

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