Praise to Change Behavior

Remember the pizza company that rewarded its employees for on-time delivery? If the pizza wasn’t delivered in 30 minutes, the customer received it for free.

What they didn’t take into account was that getting the pizza there on time also meant fast and often crazy driving. The lesson? Be careful about what you are rewarding!

Once you start down the appreciation path, the compliments become easy and natural to give. That’s great! The thing you have to become conscious of is praising only the behaviors that you want to be repeated.

It feels good to give others praise, and it SHOULD, but you must know when, what, and why you are complimenting. If you don’t, the unproductive behaviors may surface instead of the productive ones.

Rather than blindly reciting “good job,” use praise as an empowerment tool. Purposefully pinpoint the behaviors you want to continue and those that you want to eliminate. Then, use compliments and encouragement to foster productive behaviors.

Bring energy into your praise! Compliment on both large feats and small accomplishments. Let the appreciation slide from the top of the institution down. The energy will spread.

Take the specific points below into account when deciding on what behaviors to reinforce:

  • Be specific about your praise. If you simply say “great job today, Chris,” you may be encouraging Chris to take another three-hour lunch break. After all, that is what he was doing right before you walked in.
  • Keep your praise for accomplishments, not tasks. How are you going to differentiate between the extraordinary feats and daily functions if you praise in the same way for everything?
  • Vary how and when you praise. Instead of using e-mail every time, personally tell them how much you appreciate their work.
  • Sincerely compliment them on what you love and would like to see even more of and then use that praise as an eye-opener on how they can improve other behaviors.

Remember to do everything with energy! Get genuinely excited about what those around you are accomplishing. Create “hoopla!”

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