We want to be positive. Well, some of us want to be positive. I want to be positive. But, sometimes, the only thing that comes out of my mouth is "good job!" This is a lovely thing to say, but it's not very specific, and it's not very helpful. Sure, it's praise (and unspecific praise is better than no praise--as long as it's honest), but it would be better if we thought through what we are saying a little bit more.
Here are some ideas to get you going on supporting your employees (and family members, and friends!):
1. That was so creative. How did you come up with that idea? This is helpful because it not only praises the person; it lets them know you are interested in what they did. People love to talk about themselves, and this opens up the door for them to do that. Good feelings all around.
2. You nailed that presentation. How does this differ from "good job"? Well, nailed it comes from the world of Pinterest fails and successes. Nailed it tells your employee that there was a high target and they met it. Spot on.
3. That was fantastic! I'd love to see more of that. Let's talk. This is an excellent piece of feedback from the boss as long as it's sincere. It lets your employee know that she's on the right path and that you are going to help her move forward. Make sure you follow up with more opportunities.
4. I really enjoyed the part where you did X. "Great Job!" on a 20-minute presentation is nice, but when you point out specific things, it can bring the focus in. Plus, it lets your employees know the best part. Make sure you don't use this as a "feedback sandwich" where you are merely giving praise so you can criticize next. Everyone hates the feedback sandwich.
5. You were so prepared for that. You handled every question. You can get up and give a presentation and wing it, or you can be equipped with facts and figures that aren't on the PowerPoint slides. This lets your employee know that you know how hard she worked. After all, the presentation is only a tiny part of the actual work.
6. I loved how you handled that client. She really understands how the product works. Thanks! This focuses the conversation on what your employee did that was great. If you stick with "I love how you handled that client," it's not specific enough. Adding in the second sentence lets your employee know what she did that was great. Again, it's all about the specific focus.
7. Loved your blog post. I shared it. This one is a bit selfish, granted. Sharing is caring. This applies to more than just bloggers. Try, "I loved your quarterly report. I shared it with finance as I thought they might want it as a template." When you let other people know how fabulous your employee was, it helps your employee want to do more of the same high-quality work.
8. How long did that take you to put together? That was fantastic! This focuses on the hard work and preparation that goes into any successful project. While it lacks specificity (you can certainly add that), it demonstrates that you understand the work involved.
9. You did such an excellent job with X. Would you be willing to lead a lunch and learn on this? Not only is this specific praise, but it also indicates how their skills can help the entire team.
10. I want to thank Jane for the research that went into this presentation. If you are giving the presentation, or sending the report, or leading the client meeting, give credit in public for your team's hard work. It's easy to say, "surely they know I didn't do this all myself. That's why I have a team." But, giving your employees the public recognition they deserve is a lot better than a "good job" in private.
What types of phrases do you use to help reward your team members?