That Was Amazing

How often does this happen to you?

You’re in the middle of a sentence, or are part of the way through sharing an idea and a colleague interjects, barely letting you finish,

“That was absolutely amazing! Yes! Exactly that!”

“The way you described that was so clear and compelling. You totally persuaded me. That was you at your best!”

“Of all the things you’re working on, I really think that has to be your top priority. It will change everything!”

If you’re like most people, I expect you’ll quietly be thinking, “Well, actually, that hasn’t happened to me in a while.”

And that’s the problem.

Because you are amazing, and you have amazing ideas, and there are times each day, or at minimum each week, when you are at your absolute best and someone around you is there to witness it.

Same with your colleagues, I’d expect.

So why aren’t we interrupted with unbridled enthusiasm more often? Why isn’t it obvious what thing we’ve done recently felt, to those around us, like us at our best?

“Feedback” often feels like a dirty word because it’s interpreted as code for “I’m about to share something that didn’t land quite right with me.”

Now, constructive feedback, delivered with generous intent, and focused on behaviors and impact, is essential.

AND energetic, over-the-top, ludicrous praise….it’s not only easy and fun to deliver with enthusiasm, it also promises to be attention-grabbing and unforgettable.

Plus, lest we forget, for people to feel like they’re hearing and equal quantity of positive and negative feedback, they need to hear five times (five times!) as much positive feedback as constructive feedback.

“That’s just fabulous. Please do more of that.”

It’s music to our ears.

Some days

Some days you get a lot of praise for work well done.

It can feel like this praise isn’t deserved, or that it is for things that came easily to you, or that it is not worth all the fuss. Often this means that you won’t allow yourself to fully hear the gratitude and appreciation that someone expresses.

Other days you toil and sweat and put your heart and soul into a thing and nothing comes back. Or, worse, it’s exactly your best work that engenders criticism or nit-picking or downright resistance.

The thing to remember is this: gift-giving is circular. Your best ideas, your art, your emotional labor, your love, these things never come back to you in a binary way. Imagine instead that the positive words you’re hearing took a long, circuitous route to get to you. They are the winding, imperfect product of you putting bravest, truest self out into the world.

What we need from you is your continued courage, grit and determination.

And what we encourage is that you allow yourself to be sustained by the positive words that do come back your way, because the people sharing these words are, secretly, messengers for many.

The easiest thing to do

The easiest way to make some understand how valuable they are and the difference they make is by praising them.

Not empty words, not loose compliments. Actual, specific, context-relevant praise that they will value.

Ah, “that they will value.” Indeed.

To do this we must go back a few steps, to figure out not only the work they do and where they shine, but also how they see themselves and the sort of reinforcement that is important to them.

This requires recognition, from the outset, that what’s important to each person differs in fundamental ways. It means being both attentive and curious, and being consistently outside of your own head and its internal chatter. And it means always being on the lookout for moments when people shine, and being quick to reinforce the great things that they do.

So, yes, that moment of giving the praise is a simple one. But there’s a discipline and a practice of all the steps leading up to that moment.