Exclude the “But”

Ask some leaders to describe the last time they said, “Thank you,” and you’ll hear crickets or excuses.

  1. “They know I appreciate their work.”
  2. “I don’t want people to feel they’ve arrived.”
  3. “I can’t honor people for one thing and correct them for another.”
  4. “I don’t like saying, ‘Thank you.’”

Reluctance to express gratitude, give recognition, and show honor is evidence the great battles are within.

An exploration with my wife:

My wife and I explored how affirmations feel. She spoke an affirmation to me and I told her how it felt. You might try this at work or home. It’s fun. And no, it’s not a lame technique to manipulate someone into saying good things about you.

“Thank you for taking care of our family,” felt better than, “Thank you for cleaning the gutters.”

Attaching purpose to affirmation gives it power.

Two words:

I found that I like to hear two words. “You’re awesome.” It’s not simply, “You did an awesome job,” it’s “You’re awesome.”

The truth is I’m awesome once in a while and not so awesome most of the time. She could say, “You’re awesome, BUT you’re not THAT awesome.”

“But” is an eraser.

Exclude the “but”:

Discomfort with affirmation causes leaders to make exclusions.

  1. “You did a great job. BUT there’s more to do.”
  2. “You’re awesome. BUT you’re not that awesome.”
  3. “You performed well. BUT don’t slip back into bad habits.”

Give affirmations and walk away. There’s always a “BUT”. Save the “BUT” for later.

Affirmation is foundation:

Gratitude, recognition, and honor lay the foundation for performance conversations. Apart from affirmation, performance conversations are beat-downs.

Affirm behaviors and attitudes you want repeated. Don’t simply honor people when they complete tasks. Honor the initiative, creativity and hard work it takes to get stuff done.

What prevents leaders from practicing the soft stuff of leadership?

What types of affirmations work best?