We the marketers, be it the in-house rats or the agency hounds, live for praise. It’s our crack, ganja and crystal meth combined. Whenever my boss praises me for well-written texts or a well-executed project, my pulse jumps up to 150 and I feel like I could climb Mount Everest and still make it back to the office before the end of lunch break. Mind you, that doesn’t happen very often. Not because I am not awesome, but because she is so strict. Before I go off on a tangent, let me stress the main point of this article:
If you want to get 120% out of your subordinates or co-workers, make sure you praise them!
In our society, where resources aren’t life-threateningly scarce (we have food, shelter and relative comfort of our families), other needs kick in. You still remember Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, don’t you? If not, auntie Wiki will help you out. We are thinking in terms of self-actualization, so the condensed version of the theory goes like this. If the managers give you enough acclaim, you will perform better.
Walkng the thin line
However, not even praising is a universal tool necessarily leading to higher performance. It doesn’t work like a black box, into which managers put nice words and get out results. Instead of borrowing from theory, I will give you a crash course of rules and limitations for praising. Let me disclose that what works for me and a couple of hundred other people might not work for you.
If you want to increase productivity via incentivization, here is how you do it.
- Praise people for well-executed projects, in which they have applied their autonomy, mastery and purpose. Dan Pink has a great lecture about these three elements.
- The compliments must come from someone your colleagues respect, admire or aspire to. Yeah, there is a difference between winning acclaim from a janitor and a Nobel Prize winner. Who would have thought, right?
- Adhere to the rule of criticizing privately and praising publicly.
- Don’t ever be insincere when acknowledging someone’s good work. If you are, your personal as well as professional credibility will die a horrible death. It’s better not to praise than to sound insincere.
Your take on motivation?
By the way, you know this type of people who have everything you could ever wish for? They come from a good family, have a satisfying job you would kill for, enjoy financial independence and are in the middle of a stellar career. What if you get one as a co-worker or a subordinate? Tell me, do you know how to motivate them? I would try my luck with praising them. You?