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Coaching Great Leaders
Praise Is Good!

By Marshall Goldsmith

One of my clients taught me a simple yet effective system for getting better at providing positive recognition. The first year I reviewed this executive's 360 feedback report (feedback from his direct reports and coworkers), he scored in the 6th percentile for providing recognition (in other words, 94 percent of the people in his company were seen as being more effective than he was). Within one year, he had moved all the way up to the 94th percentile for providing recognition (now—in a complete reversal—only 6 percent were seen as scoring higher than he did).

Given this dramatic turnaround in scores I asked, "Please let me know what you did differently. Whatever it was, it worked. I would like to share it with all of the people that I teach."

His answer provided a road map that I have never seen fail.

  1. List the names of the key groups of people who impact your life-both at work and at home (customers, coworkers, friends, family members, etc.).
  2. Write down the names of the people in each group.
  3. Post your list in a place you can't miss seeing regularly.
  4. Twice a week—once on Wednesday, once on Friday—review the list and ask yourself, "Did anyone on this list do something that I should recognize?"
  5. If someone did, stop by to say "thank you," make a quick phone call, leave a voice mail, send an email, or jot down a note.
  6. Don't do anything that takes up too much time. This process needs to be time-efficient or you won't stick with it.
  7. If no one on the list did anything that you believe should be recognized, don't say anything. You don't want to be a hypocrite or a phony. No recognition is better than recognition that you don't really mean.
  8. Stick with the process. You won't see much impact in a week, but you will see a huge difference in a year.
Marshall Goldsmith, MBA, PhD, is a world authority on helping successful leaders achieve positive, lasting behavioral change. His executive coaching expertise has been highlighted in Forbes, Fast Company, and Business Week. He is the WSJ and NYT best-selling author of What Got You Here Won't Get You There (Hyperion, 2007). His most recent book is Succession: Are You Ready? Learn more about Marshall in the WABC Coach Directory. Contact Marshall.


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