Receiving a “congratulations,” a “thank you,” or a “job well done” from someone is usually gratifying. It is raises the individual or team satisfaction levels… usually. There is a scenario when it seems hollow and ineffective. It is ineffectual when the appreciation is sprinkled sparingly in a field of criticism and second-guessing.
Pick a time period – a day, a week, or a month, and here is what you may hear:
“Why aren’t you doing X, Y, and Z? You should be focusing on my priorities.”
“I can’t believe you are not doing these things instead of what you are doing.”
“I’m the expert, and you really don’t know what you are doing.”
“Great job on this project.”
By the time you hear the last statement, you doubt the sincerity. Is it just an attempt to not beat you down completely? Are they just throwing you a compliment because they feel bad about what they have said in the past?
You may not have this doubt the first time it occurs. By the time the second, third, and fourth time, the “great job” words just fall onto barren ground, and you just roll your eyes when it arrives. It lacks complete credibility, and you just wonder what is coming next.
Here’s the point. As leaders, you can challenge people, and you can hold people accountable. What you cannot do is be the constant complainer or be the “spoiled child” leader. If you become one of these types of leaders, then anything good you say will be doubted and fruitless.
What I mean by the complainer or “spoiled child” leader is that you are not basing your critiques or suggestions on strategy, goals, objectives, or real metrics. You have a way of doing certain things, and you are just pointing out how you would do things. If you want to say “job well done,” then let the individual and team do the job well, utilizing their talents, creativity, and abilities. Isn’t that why you hired them in the first place? Judge the “well done” part on the outcomes and defined metrics, not on personal preferences.
Here are the key considerations:
- Align suggestions to strategy and goals. Points of critique or suggestions should be given in terms of how it is affecting strategy or goals or as an open discussion to understand why certain things are being done as they are.
- Be open to new ways of doing things. If you want to dominate it all, then do all the work. If not, then set the direction, let the team do the work, and measure their success. If the metrics show the right results, celebrate their efforts.
- Seek clarification on work that is being done. If you see an approach that you might not agree with, then ask some questions to understand. Remember the previous point, and be open to new ways. It may be a better way to get the results.
- Go deeper than “job well done” in your gratitude. Tell them why it was work well done. Adding the reason for the good work and results will lead team members to want to do more as well as creatively solve future challenges.
Make your gratitude pay off with acceptance. Do you want your appreciation to lift the team up to do more or just further frustrate? Do you want your grateful words to be hollow or meaningful?