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When people do a good job, let them know

'Coach Kriengsak, last time you assigned me to ask my six direct reports what was the one thing I should change to help make them more effective. Surprisingly, all of them said I needed to compliment people more when they did well in their work," Sam tells me.

"That's an interesting response, Sam. So what do you want to achieve from our discussion today?"

"I want to be able to compliment people when they do a good job."

"All right Sam, let's do reality check. What do you normally do when you see people doing a good job?"

"I don't do or say anything."

"Why not?"

"I think it's the responsibility of everyone to do a good job. That's what we get paid for, right?"

"OK. What do you think when you see people give compliments to each other?"

"I think it will diminish their potential."

"What makes you think that way?"

"Because when I was in university I studied very hard, but my professor never complimented me, although my friends often told me I was an excellent student.

"So I tried very hard and graduated with first-class honours. On graduation day, the professor told me that he had often recognised how well I was doing. But he chose not to give me any compliments because then I might become complacent and wouldn't use all my true potential. From that moment, I believed that giving compliments prevented people from unleashing their true potential."

Sam pauses and reflects quietly. Finally he says: "Coach, that's a faulty belief, isn't it?"

I nod. "Sam, what would be a more rational belief?"

"Coach, I think giving compliments is a way to recognise people and will help them to unleash their potential even more."

"That's true, Sam. There's more and more research on the positive psychological support that compliments create."

"OK, Coach. Now I have better self-awareness of why I've been reluctant to give compliments. How do I change? How do I compliment people effectively?"

"What do you think?"

"I think each person needs to be complimented differently. I have to start by observing how they compliment others. Then I need to observe how they react to compliments."

"That's good. Once you recognise each individual's preference, then what?"

"I have to observe the moment a compliment is delivered. I need to spot 'what went well' when I interact with each person. But I still need some help. Have you any practical tips?"

"There are six factors you should consider," I say, and list them:

1. Right person(s): Who really did this job? And who else?

2. Right style: What is one's preferred style for receiving a compliment?

3. Right kind: What's the motivating factor for that person?

4. Right place: Where is the best place to deliver a compliment?

5. Right time: When will be the best time?

6. Right channel: Which channel is the best way to deliver a compliment?

"That's great. But I still have a concern. Because I haven't been in the habit of complimenting people before, they may suspect me when I start doing it. How do I make this transition?"

"Sam, you know your people better than I do. How did you communicate when you carried out programmes in your organisation before?"

"First, I have to communicate to them that based on their feedback, I discovered the reason why I didn't compliment them. Now I want to compliment people when I notice they've been performing well.

"But I want to start with small steps. The first week, whenever I compliment you, please let me know. And whenever you think I should give a compliment but missed an opportunity, please give me some feedback. This will involve them in the process."

"Second, I want to do some self-tracking. I will create a spreadsheet for 30 days. Each day, I will record the actual event when I compliment others. Because I like data, I will analyse how well I'm doing. Then I'll discuss my results with you in our next session."

"That's great. But every plan needs a back-up. What could go wrong?"

"I may not be able to spot it when people do a good job."

"How do you prevent that?"

"I will remind myself by putting a message on the screens of all my devices: 'Spot for compliments'."

"OK. Now let's practise this. If you have to compliment me for today's discussion, what would you say?"

"Coach, you did a great job by asking me to discover why I did not compliment people. Using these six tips and the back-up plan, I'm ready to make some positive changes."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under TheCoach brand. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page at Previous articles are archived at