Some time ago I brought flowers home to my wife. No reason, I just felt like it. Pretty brave you might say? Maybe.
Veronica had the same three choices any woman has in that situation. She could have given me an accusing look and said, "What have you done?" Or she could have given me a curious look and said, "What do you think you are going to do?" But she didn’t. What she did do was give me a big smile, a great kiss and then she said, "I love you."
When I asked her later if she had thought that I might have been up to something, she said "Of course." But she said she would have found out soon enough. So, "Why Spoil the moment." I reckon she’s a genius.
Well, you tell me. Of the three choices, which one do you think gets more flowers? Criticism, doubt or loving support. Veronica still gets flowers and she still reinforces the good behaviour.
Will It Work?
So do we expect to see this as the norm in the workplace? Shouldn’t everyone by now understand and use the common sense approach that says you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar?
My experience says not. More businesses seem to be based on the "Everything is OK unless you hear otherwise" approach, which leaves staff working on the "Keep your head down," principle. For them, feedback is to be avoided. Of course, what choice do they have, when all news is bad news, and no news is the only good news.
If this style ever worked, it must have been in a business that could count on doing things the same way, day in and day out for years.
What about Change?
But today our biggest competitive advantage in business is the ability of our people to learn, adapt and change. Where we focus on the benefits to our customers and not ourselves.
So where can someone get the confidence to grow, change, and try something new if they are never told they are doing well. The basis of a "comfort zone" is simply doing what we know and avoiding the discomfort inherent in change.
And change depends on people giving up the security of feeling competent in what they have been doing for the insecurity of doing it differently. Literally giving up the confidence of knowing exactly how to do something in exchange for trying to get a better result.
A Mary Kay Ash quote asks us, "What do people want more than sex and money?" I half joke, what’s left? But the punch line reminds us all of what we really do know. "Praise and Recognition."
The Mary Kay cosmetics business would not be recognisable without its praise and recognition. But the sad fact is that many people still go through their lives without the praise and recognition they are due. Sadder still when you realise how simple it would be to recognise their achievements. It doesn’t have to cost anything to recognise someone’s achievements. But it costs us all dearly when it doesn’t happen. We lose what our people could have done. What we could have become.
The price of using praise includes setting standards for people at every stage of their career. You don’t have to be the best on the team to be doing well. Anyone who is getting better deserves recognition and encouragement. We can become like our athletes, and stretch each day for our individual "Personal Bests." You need the courage to measure everyone and praise the improvers. The expression "Catch them doing something right," doesn’t mean it has to be perfect. Just better.
Can We Afford It?
Mary Kay is known in the United States for passing out pink Cadillacs. Only she really doesn’t give them away. You get one when you have earned it. And every time someone earns one, there is someone else who can now see themselves getting one too. Even better, they expect to have to work for it.
So at a time when so many people are in the habit of doing just enough to get by, you have the opportunity of using praise and recognition to build a team who expects to get better. And expects to work at it.
How did you feel the last time you were praised? You can’t buy that feeling, but you can use it. Can you afford not to?