Give Praise a Chance

By Davon Cook on March 29, 2016

       I worked with my father for ten years. He is a perfectionist and an amazing businessman. Even though it might not be reality, when I was in the trenches trying to prove myself, it often felt like all I heard was criticism. But I remember one particular day where he stopped what he was doing and told me what a great job I was doing and how proud he was of me. It was so memorable that I recall every detail--I can even tell you what chair I was sitting in! I have heard clients share similar descriptions of “that moment frozen in time” when Dad trusted me, when Dad praised me with heartfelt words.
     Giving praise is not our natural inclination, since so many of us, including me, having tendencies towards perfectionism. When observing business owners, I see a generation of entrepreneurs that has grown a business substantially in size and complexity over the last 2-3 decades. Doing that successfully required many hours, intense attention to the details, and a relentless focus on the business.
      As you transition new generations into management, it’s hard to impart all those years of knowledge and lessons learned fast enough. Here’s what I often see play out: Because some of you have the entrepreneurial tendency towards perfectionism and also are intent on “teaching” your successors, your feedback tends to be heavily weighted toward things to improve or what they forgot to do. Less often do you stop to reflect and recognize how much they HAVE learned already and what they ARE doing well. You focus on those million details that made you successful but that those learning the business sometimes forget.
     Add in the tricky dynamics of a parent-child relationship, and the impact is more intense. Our job as parents is to shape and mold our children into the best they can be. So of course we like to offer advice and suggestions for improvements! Just don’t lose track of how much a word of praise means to them, too. So here’s an idea: challenge yourself specifically and intentionally to share words of praise with your protégés regularly--even better if it’s not coupled with a suggestion for improvement at the same time. This is an investment in your business and your relationships that is entirely free and pays off with employees and children that are more confident that they are contributing to the team.