208-376-1701 bryan@bryanyager.com

First a quote: “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain
I begin this week by offering an assertion, followed by two questions. Through years of experience asking these questions of professionals of all levels, I gained some valuable insight, and learned two important lessons.
The Assertion:   Effective leaders (colleagues, parents, spouses, coaches, friends, teammates) know the importance of reinforcing desirable behaviors in others. Behavior that gets rewarded, tends to be repeated! They also know how to effectively praise and reinforce desired behaviors in ways that are both meaningful and memorable.
Now, here are the two questions:
Question #1)      How many of you have received a compliment from your manager (or other important person in your life, perhaps a colleague, spouse, parent, or friend) in the last few days?

Question #2)      How many of you have given a compliment to a team member (or other important person in your life, perhaps a boss, colleague, spouse, child, or friend) in the last few days?
I often ask these same two questions when facilitating workshops. Following are the results:
Question #1)      Typically, less than 20-30% of workshop participants remember receiving praise, positive feedback, or a compliment from a manager, colleague, spouse, parent, or friend in the last few days.

Question #2)      Almost always, 100% of workshop participants remember giving someone else praise, positive reinforcement, or a compliment to one or more individuals within the last few days.
Please know I get this same response ratio regardless of the “organizational level” of the workshop participants. It doesn’t seem to matter if I’m working with senior executives, or front-line supervisors, the response rates are almost always the same. I suspect this same phenomenon is at work in our personal relationships, as well, including with our spouses, children, parents, and friends.
So, something is askew! How is it possible for 100% of us believe we’re giving the important people in our lives praise and compliments, when only 30% of those same people remember receiving our compliments, positive feedback, or praise as intended.  Repeating, something is askew!
The Insight:        While well intended, for some reason, people may not be hearing, valuing, or remembering our compliments and praise. The impact of our words and actions does not seem to match our best intentions! This could result in our colleagues feeling undervalued or unappreciated. It could also leave our loved ones feeling unloved or unappreciated.
It is possible we could be unintentionally harming our important relationships at the exact time we believe we’re making them stronger. I have an unproven hypothesis to offer. My research suggests most of us are not particularly good at delivering positive feedback in a manner that is effective, meaningful, and memorable. Today, I offer two lessons that just might make all the difference in the world. Here they are:
Lesson #1 – Never again, simply say “Good job.” (at least without an explanation. See below)
Imagine any of the following situations:

You have spent months working to convert a potential lead into a new customer with a big sale.

  • You spend hours mowing the grass on a hot summer afternoon as a surprise for your parents.
  • You take the day off to plan, shop, prepare, and serve a wonderful surprise meal, for a friend or spouse, complete with their favorite dessert.
  • You and your team give up the weekend to complete a huge project for a key customer.
  • You put your career at risk by promoting a crazy idea developed by your team.
  • Any situation in which you invested hours and hours of hard work and effort.

Imagine now, after any of those situations, what you get in return, for all the effort and time invested, is a simple two-word “Good Job.” One can easily see how these two words can easily feel, or appear, cheap, superficial, and shallow. While this might seem harsh, I see uttering those two words as lazy and uncaring unless supported with something more substantive and valuable.  
If someone invests time and effort into doing something of value for us, the least we can do is to invest more thought and effort into a more meaningful expression of gratitude. Be specific. Be descriptive. Answer “what, why and how” the effort was appreciated.
Lesson #2 – Never again follow a compliment with the word “but” or its cousin “however.”
How many times have we heard this, “Good job, but…?”
Of the two lessons I offer today, this is probably the most important. Please know whenever you tack on the word “but,” it erases everything that comes before, including the words “Good Job.” If both are true, why not substitute “but” with “and?” It would then be, “Good job, and…”
I submit people aren’t hearing, and/or remembering, the compliment and positive feedback we intend because:

  1. We’re not specific about what behaviors and actions we value and appreciate.
  2. We don’t explain why those behaviors are important to us, our teams, the business, etc.
  3. We erase the positive words we do offer when we follow with “but or however.”
  4. We’re insincere, superficial or manipulative.
  5. We don’t tell people why we appreciate them as people.

You can improve any important relationship for the better, starting today, by giving more meaningful compliments!
Ladies and gentlemen, we can dream bigger, we can do better! Let’s not go back to normal, let’s go forward to better.
How will you love, live, or lead differently, or better, this week?
Have a great week!!
Bryan Yager
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”
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Bonus Quotes:

  • “Let others see the good that you see in them.”  – Margaret Manning
  • “Asking and hearing people’s opinion has a greater effect on them than telling them, great job.”  ― Sam Walton, Walmart Founder
  • “Part of cultivating a good life is giving compliments to others. Not just thanking them.” – Becky Higgins
  • “One compliment can affect a whole lifetime. Be bold and speak life-giving words.” – Joel Osteen
  • “Everybody likes a compliment.” – Abraham Lincoln
  • “A compliment is verbal sunshine.” – Robert Orben
  • “How you make others feel about themselves, says a lot about you.” – Unknown