Do you give a GIFT when you praise?  I don’t mean a book, a gift certificate, or something tangible.  I mean, do you praise in such a way that your people really feel appreciated?  This was a lesson I learned the hard way.

About a decade ago, one of our facilitator’s received a letter of praise from a client. Let’s say the name of the client was Q-Health Systems.  The next time I ran into the facilitator, I said, “I saw the Q-Health letter.  Great job.”

In a different conversation with the same person a few weeks later, the facilitator mentioned to me, “You really should praise people more.”  I was surprised at the comment, and, just by way of an example reminded the person of the praise that I had given related to the Q-Health letter.  The facilitator said, “That was praise?”  I was shocked at the question.

But the facilitator was right.  It didn’t feel like praise, at least not to that facilitator.  Message sent…message not received.

We recommend that leaders always give a GIFT when they praise.

1.     General to specific. Start with a general comment and then identify one or two specific behaviors to praise.

2.     Impact. Indicate the impact of the behavior or the benefit.

3.     Feeling.  Let the person know how the behavior made you feel.

4.     Thank you.   Thank the person.

Here’s how I might have given a GIFT with the Q-Health letter:

“I saw the Q-Health letter.  Great job.  It was pretty clear that they were very impressed with your ability to keep them engaged and focused.  There’s no question that because of your outstanding performance, they will be calling on us more and more.  I have to tell you, it makes me feel great to see you achieving at such a high level so early in your career with us.  Thanks for the great job.”

Now that’s giving a GIFT that the facilitator will remember.  The first “praise” just acknowledged the behavior.  But the second says I really did read the letter and I really do believe the job done was outstanding.  When you praise, do you give a GIFT or do you just acknowledge behavior?