I’ve worked my way through Leadership Coaching by Tony Stoltzfus. One of the things he recommends when a client achieves a major accomplishment is to offer encouragement and praise. He warns against generic statements because they lose their effectiveness quickly. For instance, how motivating is this?
Great job! You’re awesome!
The first time and two it’ll probably provide a boost. However, if that’s all your coach every says, eventually you’ll begin to doubt the sincerity of said coach. This also holds true when we’re interacting with co-workers, subordinates, and family, especially children. His recommendation is the G.U.E.S.S. approach:
- Genuine: You mean it.
- Unequivocal: It’s all praise. There’s no back-handed insult in what you say. There’s also no sarcasm.
- Energizing: You should match the enthusiasm and energy of the person you’re praising.
- Specific: Your praise should focus on something they did well or something important that they accomplished.
- Substantiative: You are saying something important about the person.
Consider the following two examples which I could have given my daughter at her recent karate belt test:
That was pretty good, girl. It’s about time you knocked another belt off.
You did an awesome job! Your focus during the belt test meant you did a magnificent job on your forms. Plus, your karate yells were clear and well-timed. This shows how hard you prepared!
Yes, the second response is longer, but that’s not what makes it better. I gave very specific examples of what she did well. I tied it back to her as a person. My language matched her passion at the end of her belt test. Finally, there wasn’t a put down hidden in the praise. Those qualities are what the praise better and more likely to encourage and inspire.
You don’t have to follow the G.U.E.S.S. model perfectly when you give your praise. However, at least try to make it specific and tie it to the individual in question. Generic praise becomes ineffective quickly. If we are going to take the time to praise, let us do so in a way that energizes and motivates the person we are praising.