If you are a parent, you can relate to this situation well:
You see your child do something small, but great, like voluntarily cleaning their room, or showing empathy to someone else in the family.
You feel pride, and warmth, but you say nothing. Why?
Heck, you’d be expanding her ego all day long if you say all these things every time you think them.
And that would be unhealthy, right?
(An amazing resource for how to talk to kids, and why, can be found here by Elaine Spicer. I think we can make a case for saying those things out loud more, but that’s off the subject.)
If you take that habit to work, you’re losing a valuable tool for engagement and morale.
When Tyrell turns the reports in on time, instead of thinking, “good; at least Tyrell turns them in on time,” SAY out loud: “Hey, Tyrell, thanks so much – I can always count on you to get things in on time.”
When Jaime makes great insightful points in strategy meetings, instead of thinking, “glad she finally spoke up – she always knows what to say,” SAY out loud: “Jaime, I love it when you talk. You always say the right thing, and today was no exception. Glad you’re on the team.”
When Kelly shows initiative at solving a problem, instead of thinking, “finally – someone showed some initiative around here,” SAY out loud: “Kelly! It’s great to have someone get creative with the traffic flow between the lab and reception. Keep that up.”
Positive feedback keeps people on the right track.
Previous posts have talked about feedback, and the 3:1 ratio of positive to critical, but this is different.
The above examples are not feedback. Technically, they’re praise.
If you’re picky, you might hold back from saying them out loud, because you are only talking about a behavior without an outcome. Say them out loud anyway. Very few people on your team are in danger of developing an unhealthy ego due to too frequent praise, I’d wager.
Say it out loud.