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Business Leadership

Give them more than praise

If you’ve ever worked for someone else, you know the importance of rewards and recognition, don’t you? Remember how you felt when your boss said, “thanks everyone for your hardwork, well done,” when everyone clearly knew you busted your ass to get the project delivered on time? Or perhaps, that time when you worked over the weekends for months to support the company because it couldn’t afford a new employee and all you got was shallow praise followed by a crapton of criticism! 

I don’t know about you, but it would’ve been a soul crushing experience for me. The examples I shared above are my own during the course of my journey as a developing leader. Sure, it wasn’t pleasant but I learned vital leadership lessons that would last a lifetime. Most importantly, I realised that leaders know their people crave for genuine praise that’s undiluted and from the heart. And guess what? Praise they do, lavishly, more often, and don’t just stop there. 

Regardless of the economic situation, they go ahead and reward them. Appropriately, of course! It doesn’t have to be exorbitant, just enough to acknowledge and appreciate the hard work the people have put in. Could it get expensive? Sure, particularly during the times that we’re living in right now, but is it worth it? Definitely! Even if that means your company is going to go down under! 

I know, I know — that’s a bold claim. I probably don’t know what I’m talking about. Or I don’t have the experience to run a Fortune 50 or 100 company. Yeah, probably. But the data’s in — the oldest of the companies in the world aren’t the Fortune 5000s, 1000s, 500s, 100s, or the 10s but small and medium businesses. Do you know why? The smaller companies don’t have a bunch of investors/shareholders to please. All they have is their customers and employees. Their focus is quite narrow. Hence, they understand the importance of rewards and recognition. 

Of course, I wouldn’t generalise my assertion. There are small and medium companies that do exactly what the conglomerates do during tough times — cut costs, lay off people, and save the businesses! (Despite their claim for being a “people-friendly” company.) Some companies strike a balance between laying off people and cutting a chunk of their pay packages. I guess that’s their contingency plan for good karma? And we all know how that ends. Not well. It hasn’t ever and never will.

All I’m saying is this — 

1. You’ve got to take out time to appreciate the effort that your team has put in. You’ve got to do it to the whole group and individually. More often than you already are as it doesn’t cost you a dime. 

2. Praising is fine but you have to know that rewards are powerfully motivating. It doesn’t have to be expensive. One of my friends, whose business is in a terrible state right now, gave away a boxes of home-made choco-chip cookies to his team. A small but memorable gesture. Didn’t cost a lot but made an impact that will last a lifetime. 

Recognition (or praise) and rewards go hand-in-hand. One isn’t an alternative for another. But unfortunately, that’s exactly what some businesses and leaders do. They swing to one or the other based on economic circumstances or sheer convenience. That is a bad move. And as always John Maxwell said it the best, 

If you praise them but don’t raise them, it won’t pay their bills. If you raise them but don’t praise them, it won’t cure their ills.

John Maxwell, The 360-degree Leader

As a leader, your responsibility is to ensure that your people don’t have to worry about their bills or ills. But you will have to resist the desire to refer to the balance sheet, the policies, business continuity strategy, and the economy for a brief while. Instead, think about your people, their families, and the effort they have put in for you and the business. How can you not truly appreciate that?