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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Source Of Praise

I’ve been working as part of a civic organization and recently noticed some illuminating behavior. One member of our team gets fairly constant praise for average work.

I never thought much about it, but then as results got worse, the praise increased. It has gotten to the point where pointless adulation is a significant part of board meetings.

Only then did I figure out that the member is initiating the barrage of praise. It seems to be addictive, more validation needed every month.

Once I noticed how the praise was being generated, I saw that a further technique to look good was to blame and complain about other team members, push them down.

At first I could accept that behavior as occasional bad manners, poor conversation skills, whatever. But that’s really not constructive in a volunteer organization, and surely is the root cause of the chronic complaint of lack of help.

For me, the big lesson is that meaningful praise has to come from someone else. For 20 years I’ve led Talk Your Business, How to make more and better sales right away! After thousands of promotions, I trusted my customers and got the best description ever.

The smaller lesson was revisiting advice I got from a carpenter when I was a construction contractor, “It’s okay to talk to yourself, just don’t tell yourself any lies.”

How does this change your perspective?


  1. The best praise, and, as you rightly point out, the only meaningful praise comes from others. Now that you've identified this dysfunctional behavior, are you going to be able to affect it before the organization is destroyed?

  2. This reminds me of the maxim: "Don't confuse activity with accomplishment."

    Real praise comes from others as result of you adding value to an event, an organization, or a relationship.

    You get out what you put in!

    Thank you, Dick.

  3. Dick:

    When doing employee reviews, a good approach is to spotlight and praise actions and results you want.

    When a faint-at-heart leader offers great praise for minor work, the result is to get more minor work, the reward is the leader deserved it.

    Good post.