Recognizing employee accomplishments is an essential part of management leadership. Unfortunately, most of the time I observe owners and managers carpet bombing “good jobs” and doing more harm than good. In order for praise to be effective, you must use LASR precision.
In WWII, when the Allies wanted to destroy the industrial and communications complex in Dresden, Germany they employed a tactic known as “carpet bombing”. They flew over 700 aircraft and deployed 3,900 tons of high explosive “dumb” bombs, carpeting the target area in ordinance. As a result, they killed 25,000 civilians as collateral damage and created a controversial public relations nightmare that persists today.
In an effort to provide positive feedback, many managers will drop “good jobs” like so many tons of dumb bombs. But as often as not, employees that haven’t done anything praiseworthy share in the benefits. Indiscriminate praise is like carpet bombing a target, you don’t know where it is going to fall - and while it may do some good, it will also result in unintentional collateral damage.
Let’s look at 3 possible scenarios and see the mechanics of this effect:

1. The employee sat on their hands all day –

In this case, you are rewarding and reinforcing bad behavior. Worse still, if you ever try to counsel this employee to help them improve it will fall on deaf ears. After all you have been telling them they’ve been performing well all along.

2. The employee did some good work today

But the rest of the day was unremarkable or they may have even done nothing the rest of the day – This is a missed opportunity. Here you have an employee that has done some good work but by not offering LASR guided praise you missed the opportunity to reinforce good behavior. Not knowing which behaviors were praise worthy, this employee will not consciously repeat their performance.

3. The employee was a rock star all day long

Dealing with one or more difficult customers, they handled the situation with aplomb. These are the employees you want to keep and nurture. The generic “good job today” will have a demotivating affect. Like the student that studies hard and aces a test, only to find out their grade will be the average of the entire class, this employee will be deflated by vague, non-specific praise provided to the group. Eventually they will feel unappreciated and their productivity will slip or they will leave to work else where. After all, why should they work hard only to have the credit diluted?

Leaders Provide Specific and Timely Acknowledgement

If WWII were fought today, we would use smart munitions, like laser-guided bombs, that are specifically targeted to destroy the factories, rail yards, and communications centers while leaving the civilian housing untouched. As business leaders, your “smart munitions” is laser targeted specific praise.
  • L = Limited to the individual or team that performed well
  • A = About the company core values demonstrated
  • S = Specific to the behavior you want to reinforce
  • R = Real time, give praise as close to the event or behavior as possible.
Laser targeted specific praise should be timely, as close to the praiseworthy event as possible. Call out the individual or individuals by name and include what they did right and how it ties into your core values and advances the company’s mission.
For example, let us take a customer service rep at a moving company that handles a difficult customer on the phone. The company has empathy as one of its core values and its mission is to “eliminate the stress of moving”. Laser targeted praise might be “You did a great job dealing with Mr. Jones on the telephone. I love the way you listened patiently while he vented, then validated his feelings before fixing the issue. You demonstrated empathy, one of our core values while reducing his stress, the whole reason we exist as a company, great job!” As you can see this feedback targeted specific behaviors that can be replicated and reinforced the company’s values and mission.
Your goal should be to provide LASR targeted praise daily.  It will pay deep rewards.

About Dave Rosenberg CPBA, CPDFA Practical Tactical Leadership Expert:

After leaving the US Navy, where he served as a Naval Flight Officer, Dave Rosenberg ran several of San Diego’s most prominent companies, including a kitchen and bath remodeling company, which built its own custom, European-style cabinetry. Now he is on a mission to replace TGI Friday with TGI Monday by providing managers with the Practical Tactical leadership skills need for them to lock on target and inspire their team to greater productivity. Dave is the founder and principal at Locked On Leadership, a consulting firm that focuses on practical tactical leadership skills that yield results.  He is a Certified Professional Behavioral and Driving Forces Analyst and has worked with over 90 companies in 13 states arming them to achieve sustained and managed growth.

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