Raising the level of your leadership

Polluted Praise

WarningPollutionAhead (1)I have a friend who was—after leading a very successful event—completely demoralized by what I call polluted praise. Polluted praise is the old and deadly, “That was great, but….” Those of us afflicted with the arrogance that comes with perfectionism are particularly prone to pollute praise with “but….” I have done it many times, and some I still remember.

This is not complicated. Two simple leadership rules will help you avoid the “but….”:

#1—Always praise and critique/debrief at different times. The time for “but…” is not five minutes after the event is over—especially an event that successful by most measures. Give the team some time (probably a few days) to enjoy the success before the “but…” is raised.

#2—Actually, don’t use the “but…” at all. It is the least effective improvement tool I can think of. Telling people what they did wrong and what could be done better is not often well received and doesn’t promote any self-evaluation/thinking that leads to growth. Critique/debrief by asking questions:

  • What did we do really well?
  • Are there some suggestions you have for how we can do even better next time?
  • What about ___________? Are you satisfied with how that went?
  • Did you hear any complaints from anyone?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Give the team a chance to figure it out for themselves. They will. And instead of dictating, you’ll be leading. Isn’t that your job?

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© Copyright 2016 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company

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