Pay people with praise.


“People ask for criticism, but they only want praise.” W. Somerset Maugham


Look for opportunities to praise and acknowledge the people around you. Most people have a high need for recognition which is not being filled. When you become that source of recognition, you will find that others respect and like you so much more. If we hope to get the best out of someone, then praising them is a good way to do it. The cheapest possible way of paying people is with praise, because it’s totally free.

Ask yourself the questions. Do you get enough praise and recognition? Would a pat on the back be nice to receive now and then? Do you feel that most of the people around you take you and your efforts for granted? If you answered those questions honestly, then you have to agree that the people that you interact with on a daily basis, have very much the same need for positive praise and recognition that you do.



Tom Peters, one of the greatest management thinkers of all time stated that while an MBA was a great degree to get, there was a better approach, and that was the MBWA approach. That is, Manage By Walking Around. Catch your people doing things right, instead of looking for the mistakes. And when you do, pay them with praise. The more you catch people doing things right, the more things people will give you to find that are right. People thrive on praise and positive strokes.

You don’t have to be all sugary and syrupy, just a short honest and appropriate statement about the positive behaviour is all that’s needed. “Sue, I was really impressed with the way that you handled that Jones problem. It showed you really had a grasp of the situation. Thanks.” Where and when to do it? As we said, praise in public, criticise in private. Don’t call the person into your office. Rather go to their work space and do it there, publicly for as many people as possible to see.

Now the first time you do this, do NOT be surprised if the person you are praising passes clean out from shock. It will probably be so unique to them that it may take hours to recover and come to the realisation that what they heard was in fact real, and not a dream. By the time you’ve done it a half dozen times, the person will become used to it, and will appreciate it fully. People blossom, glow and grow with praise. Let’s use it frequently and appropriately.

Why the need to praise?

We have all seen employees join a company, fired up, keen and ready to take on anything. Amazingly high levels of motivation. Yet six months or a year down the line, they appear to have lost that edge, and are in a rut. Where have those high levels of motivation gone, and why? In many cases, the employee was not praised and motivated by management, and therefore was unable to motivate themselves.

Let’s face it, same old job, day after day, week after week… it must get boring, repetitive and uninteresting. That’s what make the managers job of praising and motivating so important. To keep up the levels of excitement and energy, so that employees really feel that they are a valuable and worthwhile asset to the company. Motivational skills are no longer a nice to have, but rather a have to have.


It really happened …

I have a good friend that I have known most of my life. He grew up in a home with a very domineering and unyielding father, and a soft mother who was scared of his father. Raymond was a classical underachiever and was constantly berated by his father who ridiculed him with labels like “Lazy, stupid and useless.” His mother would almost never intervene for fear of becoming a second target for the father’s temper.

Raymond would often say that he couldn’t remember a single time in his life, up to the age of seventeen when his father was killed in a motor accident, that he saw him smile at him, or that he praised him in any way. Now I’m quite sure that that was not true, and that there were cases. However, Raymond’s ego and self esteem were formed with the belief that his father never praised him or smiled at him. To Raymond, the boy, that is reality. Raymond was convinced that to his father, he was one great big disappointment.

Raymond had a rough youth, going off the rails, and getting himself into trouble more than once. At the age of about twenty five, he took stock of himself and decided that he had become exactly what his father had said he would, and this made him angry. Angry to the point of rebellion. He started to see a psychologist, to help him to “rebel” against this script that his father had created for him.

Today, Raymond is a loving husband to his wife, father to his children, and a successful business man, who has the most incredible ability to find the good in people and to praise them. Through the lack that he grew up with, he was able to truly empathise with people, and to give them what he had wanted and needed so badly.

Praise – The personalised approach.

From all the different theories of motivation that we have, it becomes obvious that we need to recognise each person as an individual, and then to motivate and praise that person in a particular way. What works for John, may or may not work for Mary. We need to start by recognising what needs the person has, that we can try to meet.

With some people, praise in a particular area may embarrass the person. Other times people may feel that you are being patronising or talking down to them. Ask yourself, what would give you a sense of recognition and achievement, and then by using empathy, putting yourself into the shoes of the other person, try to figure out what would work for them. And then praise with honesty and integrity.

Can we motivate others?

In truth – No. But what we can do through positive praise, is create a growth environment in which other person can motivate themselves. Whatever praise we lavish on someone will then serve as the catalyst to get the person thinking about how they can positively affect their destiny.. to get in charge of their life and to develop mental growth and development strategies, and in this way become more enthusiastic and motivated. Your praise will be the seed that will then germinate and grow, to allow the person to become the best that they are capable of being.

Ask yourself, DAILY, what can I do to make my people feel more enthusiastic about coming to work, or going to school, or staying home, and then set out to do it. As a manager, parent, spouse or teacher, we have to use positive praise to create a motivating environment in which the individual can grow. Usually a good first step is to stop de-motivating people with negative criticism and put downs.


 “You can tell the character of every man when you see how he receives praise.” Seneca



Pay People with Praise.

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