The importance of praising your employees
We have all heard the term “Don’t leave money on the table”. When I was running my company I coined a phrase that I felt superseded and was more impactful than the one above. And that is “Don’t leave praise on the table.” I not only personally practiced this, but I made it part of our culture. I talked about this to our managers every chance I got and never missed an opportunity to remind them of this habit.
This phrase came about one evening around closing time when I owned and operated a chain of tire and auto stores in Illinois and Iowa. I was at the counter of one of my stores talking to the store manager about Billy, a great young man with a lot of potential. He was struggling a bit to find his way and was making mistakes from time to time, but I knew he just needed time and a bit more confidence. That evening I asked my manager how Billy was doing. He said, “He had a rough day, made a few mistakes, but kept at it and grinded.” But my manager did say that he was still very proud of him. I then asked my manager if he had told Billy this – to which he said, “No, but I will in the morning.” As he told me this, I saw Billy through the corner of my eye walking towards his car. I got excited and told my manager to go out there and tell him now instead of waiting until the morning. My manager then made up some sort of excuse that he was busy and promised he would do it the next day.
That night I agonized over this and wondered about Billy’s drive home. What would he have felt like if my manager would had taken just five minutes to tell him that he was proud of him, despite the mistakes he made that day? I wondered how Billy’s self-esteem was when he left work and what he was thinking or feeling on the drive home. I wondered if his conversation with his girlfriend that evening would have been more pleasant if he wasn’t feeling so deflated about himself. Most of us have felt our personal life suffer when our mental state was off due to work.
The next day when I arrived at my shop I went straight to the manager and asked how it went with Billy that morning. He casually said that he hadn’t had a chance to tell him how proud he was yet. And in that moment the furry I felt made me immediately turn this lesson into a policy. I made it my mission right then and there to have a company that will never turn down an opportunity to praise our employees and in fact seek ways to do so.
This made me realize just how complicated self-esteem is. Most people have difficulty regulating self-esteem due to reasons that go deep. We as managers aren’t equipped or trained to get to the underlying reasons for these self-esteem issues. Over time and with practice we can learn to recognize who may need a short term self-esteem boost at work. Many of my employees’ self-esteem issues were a result of a poor upbringing. Parents that didn’t encourage or love their children in ways that are required for a healthy psyche. As a manager we don’t have the training or time to dig deep into the underlying reasons as to why our employees may have these issues. However, we can do something very simple when the opportunity presents itself. We can simply find ways to lift the spirits of our team. The key is to do this individually for each employee.
Just like leaving money on the table, leaving praise on the table is just as costly. Imagine if every single opportunity, like Billy’s case, was recognized and seized. Imagine the productivity level increase and the general morale increase. A company's morale is the sum of all the individuals morale.
You can implement this praise method starting today. Make it your goal to find something encouraging to say to every team member each day. Waiting until the next day is a lost day! The more often you do this, the more natural it will become. There is no doubt that this will in time make you and your team stronger.
NEVER LEAVE PRAISE ON THE TABLE.