Catch Them Being Good!

Confession time: I absolutely love catching people being good! There’s something truly gratifying about helping others feel a sense of pride in their accomplishments. I’m a firm believer that “belief always comes before performance,” and my journey has been filled with countless personal leadership experiments that proved to me just how powerful it is to catch people being good. When we do, they show up as their absolute best selves!

Now, let’s talk recognition which has been defined as positive feedback about performance (Robbins, 2019). You’d think a quick “shout out” would be an easy task for leaders, but here’s the thing – it’s not happening enough! Many employees feel like their hard work goes unnoticed. Can you believe it? According to Novak (2016), a whopping 82% of American employees reported that they did not feel like their supervisors recognized them enough.

I’m not sure why this might be the case. Are employees not recognizing the positive feedback they receive, or is it that leaders simply aren’t giving it? My gut tells me it’s more of the latter. Complimenting others can make some of us feel a bit vulnerable – it’s not always easy to tolerate our sense of vulnerability. And you know what? Leaders might worry that too many compliments will make them seem insincere, leaving employees wondering what their true intentions are or fearing demands for a raise. The world we live in is VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – and it’s probably a blend of factors that change with each unique situation.

Regardless, I’m encouraging you all to take a risk and compliment a little more. Trust me; we all need and benefit from it. It’s not just wishful thinking; there’s solid evidence showing the perks of catching people being good. Increased intrinsic motivation? Check! Improved job performance and satisfaction? Double-check! (Vallerand & Reid, 1984; Kooij et al., 2010; Stajkovic & Luthans, 2003).

Now, let’s talk about the secret sauce to catching people being good: being specific to be terrific (Hack, 2022). I encourage you to forget the generic “good job” – we can do better than that! Dive deep and highlight what was exceptional about their work. Oh, and timing is everything! Delayed praise loses its magic, so strike while the iron is hot. Shower praise on their specific behaviors, not so much the person. Instead of saying, “you were tremendous,” go for “your effort was tremendous!” And guess what? The impact multiplies when you recognize them in public, so let the world know about their greatness.

Now, here’s a challenge for you – experiment with some of the following, and if you do what do I have to say? “Good decision making and great effort!”

See you soon,