DO YOU KNOW THE RIGHT WAY TO PRAISE? Lots of us who care, don’t.
The younger a child, the more s/he laps up praise. Toddlers need all the cheering on you can give. Time comes, however, when praise must be leavened with reality as this article points out; the best praise is for effort and willingness to learn.
Want more proof of the dangers of praise. Watch the tryouts for any of the talent based reality show. Sooner or later someone will try who has absolutely no talent. Most often waiting outside of the audition room is an extended family full of praise; their love blinding them to their loved one’s lack of talent in the area being show cased.
The American belief that following your dream with faith and passion guarantee’s success supports praising as a pathway to success. Not helpful. Passion and hard work are essential for success, but a realistic appraisal of talents, an achievable definition of success and lots of luck are also required. When Oprah says, “If I made it, anyone can” she is putting herself down and not realizing she had the right talent at the right time and in the right industry–what I see as luck.
My youngest son was 12 when he finally decided no matter how hard he practiced, he was not going to be the next Keith Hernadnez, then the left-handed all Star first baseman for the New York Mets. As he said, “Mom, there are only 750 Major League Baseball Players, no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to be one.”
Before they reach puberty and can think more broadly, most children can’t compare themselves realistically to other people. Sadly, once this son could think realistically about his chances of becoming a Major League Baseball player, he had to let go of a long cherished dream. That hurt. For several years, he looked at us with discust if we suggested going to a Mets game–or watching them on television; both former pleasures. Although we encouraged sports for fun and not stardom we also went to every one of his games and cheered his every catch or hit. When his dream died, he complained about our having encouraged him: “Pushed” was his exact word. Important for all power leaders to remember–interpretation is in the eye of the interpreter. Adolescents struggle with many lost dreams as they begin to code the world more realistically. Moreover many feel betrayed and lied to by parent, even by the best of parents.
How does this relate to other Power Leading situations? When I was a manager, some staff accused me of being too easy with the praise. I believe in praise, but probably could have done a better job as suggested in the article. A major tip about praise for every power leader: make sure you take into account the person’s inner voice. I was lucky to have some really great people working with and for me. Sadly, most had what some would call poor self-esteem, so praise rarely rang true to them. My praise created cognitive dissonance or in a simpler term “Uncertainty.” Sadly it was usually the uncertainty was too often resolved by denying my evaluation and praise.
Try this little exercise on yourself. Image being complimented and knowing that the person means what s/he is saying. Imagine the person handing you one compliment after another. What is your compliment limit? I’m a three compliments in-a-r0w person. That’s when my negative self-esteem starts discounting a compliment no matter how true it might be.
Try the above exercise with those you are leading. Doing so usually produces two different results. A few people never feel uncomfortable no matter how many compliments they get. Some of these also never thing they do anything wrong. Others just liked the praise and felt it was deserved. The second group were the better employees or learners. Negative feelings didn’t get in their way; moreover, these generally responded equally well to criticism; the first group did not handle criticism well.
Another bunch of people were more like me. They were uncomfortable with any praise. I used to shrivel at any compliment, but eventually came to see that was because I lacked confidence in my ability. Knowing this helped me be more accepting of praise. Pointing out to those under you that they are judging themselves harshly when they don’t accept a compliment helps, defuse negative inner voices.
A word about another way our culture creates problems with self-satisfaction–the emphasis on being a star. Click here to see what a published author Jonathan D. Allen says about how seeking stardom can defuse the joy of writing.
I am proud that my business motto is “Make money, doing good.” I haven’t made much money, but doing good has sustained my journey. I still hope to garner more blog readers and dream of my novel being read by hundreds, but if that doesn’t happen, I have the joy of writing and am lucky that hasn’t been taken from my by a quest or more and more glory.
Follow your dream for the pleasure of the journey, work hard, enjoy, and count yourself extra lucky if success results.
Share, care, and stay strong.