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S-S-I praise goes a long way in creating highly-motivated employees

Over the last month, I’ve been posting a series of video blogs on specific actions leaders can take to create highly-motivated employees.  My last strategy was to plan for and organize fun.  Today’s tip: offer genuine and sincere praise.

Offer genuine and sincere praise

I am frequently asked the question – can there be too much praise?  And my answer often surprises people.  My answer is that there can never be too much praise … as long as it is S-S-I praise.  S-S-I is an acronym for Specific, Sincere and Immediate.  There is no such thing as too much praise as long as it is Specific, Sincere and Immediate.

This is sincere

This is easiest to explain if I give you an example.  Let’s say I have an employee, Carter, who is doing good work and I want to praise him.  So I see him standing at the coffee machine, and I stop and say “thanks for doing a great job Carter”.

Three days later, I see him at the photocopier and I this time I comment “it’s so great having you in our department, keep up the good work.”

A week later, we get into the elevator together, and I smile broadly, pat him on the shoulder, and say “I hear you’re doing fantastic work Carter, good job!”  Now even though I am praising sincerely, the chances are pretty good that Carter doesn’t think so.  And that’s because my praise is not specific.

This is specific

Now contrast my earlier version with this one.  The first time I see Carter at the coffee machine, instead of my previous comment, I say “I hear that your presentation to the accounting department went very well, I know that all the staff were talking about the information you shared, great job.”

Then three days later, when I see him at the photocopier, I tell him “Natalie told me you that you’ve been coming in early this past week to help test our new call routing system, thank you.”

And then finally, a week later, in the elevator, I smile and reach out to shake Carter’s hand, “Congratulations on exceeding our invoice accuracy targets this month, you made a huge contribution to the department.”

Do you see the difference?  I may have been sincere in all the situations, but because I was specific in the latter examples, my praise is much more meaningful and effective.  This is the type of praise that creates highly-motivated employees!  Specific, Sincere, AND Immediate.

This is immediate

So what does Immediate mean?  Immediate means within 48 hours of you being made aware of the event.  In order for praise to be effective, it must be delivered within 48 hours of the event that it relates to, or within 48 hours of you finding out about it.  So what happens if you are not going to have an opportunity to see the person for another week?  Should you wait to praise the employee face-to-face, in person?  Well ideally, in person is nice, but time is more important than face-to-face.  In order for praise to be powerful, it’s more important to deliver it on a timely basis, rather than in person.  So if you know you’re not going to get that face-to-face meeting, leave a voicemail or send a short e-mail acknowledging and thanking the person for their good work.

Praising costs absolutely nothing, but is a very powerful way to create highly-motivated employees, as long as you remember the S-S-I formula – Specific, Sincere and Immediate.

Well, what do you think?  Can there be too much praise?  Particularly given how I’ve defined it?  Do tell.

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