people and build a more amazing team.
To do this, choose a skill you want
each team member to add or improve
on. Work on this with each person,
and any time you see improvement or
good work, praise the person specifically for it.
You will see that person light up and
keep getting better until reaching the
level you want. Occasionally praising
the things you know that someone has
always been good at will also keep that
person from feeling like no one notices
his or her ongoing hard work.
What you reward and recognize is
what you get. If you do not recognize
anything, the bar will lower to see what
gets noticed (or what they can get away
with). When you do praise and reward
your team, you raise the bar based on
what gets praised.
Can You Be the Manager
You Always Wished You Had?
None of us hears “thank you” or “
awesome job” enough at work. Being the
person who praises other people is an
amazing person to be, especially when
you follow this formula for making
your praise ridiculously effective.
What could you accomplish if you
had the best team in your company?
Imagine what you could do if you had a
team that was so successful and so motivated that you could take a long vacation without worrying about what was
going on at the office?
Stop thinking about it, and start doing. Set a reminder on your calendar to
give more praise every week.
The Debugging Mindset
Devon H. O’Dell
The Paradox of Autonomy and Recognition
Kate Matsudaira ( katemats.com) is an experienced
technology leader. She has worked at Microsoft and
Amazon and successful startups before starting her own
company, Popforms, which was acquired by Safari Books.
Copyright held by author.
Publication rights licensed to ACM. $15.00.
Praise Is Difficult
Giving praise is difficult. It can be awkward. It can feel unnecessary.
You might think, “My team already
knows I think the work they do is awe-
And you know what? You might be
right. They might already know you ap-
preciate them. But that does not coun-
teract their need to hear that you still
think they are awesome.
It’s not just the knowledge that your
boss values you and your work that
matters. Hearing it, out loud, for specific projects is what really matters. It is
what sustains people. It is what motivates them.
Hearing praise releases oxytocin in
our brains, a hormone that fuels trust
and bonding. Simply put, hearing how
much our work is appreciated makes us
want to do more to repeat that feeling
by pleasing the people we work with.
In fact, when I think about my past,
one of my biggest motivations for being amazing in previous roles was being recognized for being amazing.
The recognition and approval I received from my leaders and peers were
just as important as the raises and
promotions I received for being great
at my job.
Praise matters just as much as money.
So, how do you do it right?
How to Praise Your
Valuable praise has the same three elements. If you add these together, the
praise you are giving will be meaningful and motivating to your team.
It’s like a super-simple math equation for motivation: to be effective,
praise must be frequent, specific, and
Frequent. When you do not praise
your team regularly, they do not know
where they stand with you. They may
make assumptions based on limited
information such as your demeanor in
a meeting or a face you made in passing. When your team has little to go on
(or they hear from you only when
things are wrong), they do not have
enough information to know you (
secretly) appreciate their work.
Never forget that as a manager, your
opinion matters to your team and they
are constantly looking to you for information about their status.
Plus, negative comments last a lot
longer in our brains than positive ones.
This is why frequent praise matters.
It has been said that it takes six
positive interactions to overcome one
negative interaction—keep that in
mind, especially if you are a hard-driving manager who demands the
best. Make sure your team hears
more of the good than the bad.
Specific. How many email messages have you gotten with a “Thanks!” or
“Good job” tacked onto the end of it?
It doesn’t quite have the enthusiastic
effect the sender probably meant for it
As a manager, when you praise your
team, you need to tell them exactly
what you liked in their work in order
for it to have any value to them. Was it
the way they commented their code?
Did they give a detailed, efficient, and
prompt answer in a support question?
Were they able to take control of a bad
situation and get everyone quickly
working toward a good solution?
If you acknowledge specifically what
you liked about what they did, they will
know that you really paid attention and
they will know exactly what to do to be
Researchers have found that the
highest driver of work engagement is
whether workers feel their managers
are genuinely interested in them and
their well-being. Think about how
many times in your own career you have
said to yourself things like, “I don’t
think they even notice what I do.”
Be clear about praising specific work
that you are grateful for or that has had
a big impact. This will go a long way to-
ward fighting burnout and building an
amazingly motivated team (especially if
you take the time to look for unsung
and overlooked heroes on projects).
Strategic. Are you convinced praise
is a good thing? Well, it gets better. You
can actually use praise to develop your