Have you ever had a conversation with your manager that started as praise and ended up with you having more work? Or, worse, feeling like the praise was a pretext, to soften a criticism, that in one form or another left you feeling that you weren’t doing enough?
Have you ever done that as a people leader yourself? As you bring your team back from the most anxiety-producing summer holiday in most of our lives, it’s a critical moment to get the praise thing right. It starts by learning how to hold your praise — by holding the moment in which you give it.
Let’s start with the opposite scenario: What does it look like when you don’t hold the moment? A member of your team completed a project ahead of schedule or hit a number that’s been previously out of reach. You’re in a meeting or on a video call with them, and you say: “Good job on reaching that goal.” Praise delivered, right? Not yet.
What you did was start a praise conversation. Whether that praise lands, and whether it brings further dividends hinges on what you do next. Here’s how you can turn a general statement of praise into a transformative conversation:
As a modern people leader, one of the core elements of your role is to help people make connections. Sometimes that’s in connecting their day-to-day work to a larger objective. Sometimes that’s in connecting a personal struggle to a professional one. Sometimes, as it is here, that’s in connecting them to the impact of something they’ve already done.
You can spend your life in your inbox, checking off tasks and moving onto the next one, but you’ll miss the moments that bring teams together. You’ll miss the moments that bring the people on those teams closer to themselves. Because, with everything going on around us, it’s in the moments where we experience ourselves having a positive impact on the world that can make the difference between feeling a part of something or feeling isolated and disconnected.
What if half of what you wanted to see change on your team could happen by focusing everyone’s attention on the things that already are? What if, by doing that, you’d give them an experience of work that left them hungry to see what they could do next?
You don’t have to exaggerate or pretend. You don’t have to be dramatic about it. All you have to do is hold the moment for one beat longer than you otherwise would.
Watch how much energy gets released when you do.