Praise, Ability, and Sucking the Life out of People

Praise is informed by the maturity and ability of those being praised.

Shoe tying:

Imagine little Mary successfully tying her shoe for the first time. Filled with pride, she parades her shoe tying to mom and dad. What happens?

It doesn’t matter that the knot is loose or the bows hang uneven, mom and dad go nuts. “Wow! That’s amazing.”

In the world of knot tying, her knot isn’t amazing. But compared to ability, it’s fantastic.

Sucking the life out of people:

Imagine correcting little Mary’s shoe-tying.

  1. “That’s pretty sloppy, Mary.”
  2. “Is that the best you can do?”
  3. “Look at mommy’s shoes. See how nice her knots are.”
  4. “Look at your brother’s knots. Aren’t they beautiful?”
  5. “That’s terrible. You better try again.”

You rightly judge the above statements as cruel.

Disrespect sucks the life out of people.

Ability and praise:

#1. Cheer like mad.

When a novice tells you about a small success, jump up and down, clap, and give them a high five. Praise progress.

If you only praise perfection, you won’t praise anything.

#2. Protect from criticism:

Protect novices from criticism. Suppose little Mary’s big brother makes fun of her shoe tying ability. You’d jump to defend her.

When you protect novices, they dare to try again.

Beyond novice:

Our 12 year old granddaughter asked me to evaluate her underwater handstand. I shouted, THREEEE, and held up three fingers.

First she frowned, then a look of determination flooded her eyes. It glared, “I’ll show you, Poppi.”

She kept trying. I was stingy. Her marks inched toward ‘10’.  A tough evaluation challenged her. She raised her hands in victory when she earned a ‘10’.

Passion to excel is resilient in mature team members.

They already know that hard work comes before excellence. They’ve learned from failure and know falling short is educational.

How do leaders suck the life out of people?

What’s the difference between praising novices and praising experts?

*I thought I would irritate the perfectionist in you! 🙂