JS Tip 226: From the Leadership Workshops: Giving Compliments

Part of leadership is finding the good and reinforcing it. All too often, employees—associates—don’t realize they’re doing something well, and, without reinforcement, they fail to repeat the behavior.

Four suggestions about compliments:

They’ve got to be short. Quick and to the point. They can’t drag on.

They’ve got to be specific. Identify the exact behavior you thought was important.

They’ve got to be sincere. “Hey, hey, hey, what will it take to get you into a nice, shiny used car today?” No. No plaid coats. No plastered smiles. No slickness.

They’ve got to be soon. Compliment the behavior when you see it. Don’t delay. Effectiveness is inversely proportional to time.  

Estella, you did a great job with the woman at the counter—the woman who couldn’t find her wallet—just now. You were patient, helpful, and friendly. You did a great job. Thank you.

Short: Thirty-four words. Maybe twelve seconds.

Specific: “You did a great job with the woman at the counter—the woman who couldn’t find her wallet.” Estella knows you know what you’re talking about because she was there. She knows the incident.

Sincere: Well meant. Encouraging. Supportive.

Soon: “Just now.” It just happened. Immediate reinforcement.  

Complimented behavior becomes repeated behavior.

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