Can we overpraise? Is there such a thing as building up our teammates too much? I believe so.
Leaders were never intended to be cheerleaders whose primary role is shouting affirmation and praise from the sidelines, even when the team is down by 30 points. Leaders should be coaches. They encourage, but they also teach, train, strategize, redirect, have frank discussions, and make tough decisions on behalf of the team – all for the good of the team.
Risks and Results of Overpraise
I’ve encountered many leaders over the years whose only coaching method is to heap praise and compliments on their teammates, whether or not they were doing exceptional (or even good) work. When we rely solely on praise to lead, guide and direct our people:
- We miss opportunities to help them grow. We sidestep having deeper, frank discussions or holding others accountable because we don’t want to be uncomfortable or we’re concerned we might hurt someone’s feelings.
- We lower standards for performance. You cannot achieve excellence if you consistently reward average.
- We mislead those who are underperforming. I have known of many employees who were blindsided by poor performance reviews because they received nothing but daily praise and positive feedback from their leaders.
Risks and Results of Under Praise
Now, let’s jump over to the opposite side of the fence – not giving enough praise. I had a client once tell me that he didn’t give a lot of praise because he felt like if he did, his employees would ask for raises.
Well, for a moment, I was speechless! Then, I recovered with my respective rebuttal. I told him that I think encouragement and praise, when deserved, can replace some monetary rewards in a roundabout way. Encouragement helps forge great relationships, and people want to work in an environment where they are appreciated. Many employee surveys have shown that “appreciation for work done” is the overall top motivator for employees, well above pay.
The challenge for us as leaders is to be balanced, intentional, and authentic with our praise and our pay. We can also praise and correct! The two can and should go together.