Lead With Praise

Leadership tips that focus on recognizing the good in the people one leads.

I am entering a new phase of my career, and I am finding that things I used to do on intuition I now need to do with increased knowledge. This is especially true when it comes to leadership issues. I used to fly by on charisma, but I am in a new role, at a higher level, with a new company, and it seems that I can’t get the same momentum.  Are there steps I should follow?

I am usually hesitant to throw out a cliché to make a point, but, in this case, there is a classic saying in leadership that applies here: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Just being appointed to a leadership position does not make anyone a leader. The first thing you must do is gain trust. Trust is primarily established by building a relationship and then by demonstrating competence. Most inexperienced leaders make the mistake of trying to drive productivity out of their followers before building the more personal side of the working relationship.

Keep in mind that most people operate from an egocentric perspective in their work. Many are in their jobs for what they get out of them. That may sound like a cynical statement about human nature, but there is a very positive side to it. The upside is that many people are interested in who they become in their work versus what they do. In other words, they want to become “better” people as a result of the work they do. So your first job is to tap into that need and direct it positively by recognizing the good in the people you lead.

Studies show that receiving recognition is highly valued by workers. I would begin by praising your individual team members on the significance that they add to the organization. You should highlight the character traits they display in their work efforts to reinforce who they are versus just what they do. Telling your team members that you see their worth objectively and subjectively builds trust because it clearly demonstrates that you are paying attention to them. Praising those traits publicly is something that will accelerate the traction you desire.

The next step is to provide objective targets for the team in areas of productivity so they have a fair shot at achieving those marks. When employees know whether or not they are achieving the expectations you set, it takes away ambiguity and increases their feelings of security. It also allows them to see how their jobs fit into the big picture. This is done most effectively when they help set those targets, so they feel ownership of the results. There is a simultaneous step: to live out the standards that you ask your team to abide by. This includes things like being on time, meeting deadlines and returning messages. It also includes providing quality results at the same level you ask of your team.

Catholic business consultant
Dave Durand is online at