Acknowledging Employees Is More Than Just “Atta-boys”

On the shoulders of a recent blog post focused on caring about your employees, to really develop people you must pinpoint positive behavior and let your direct reports know you saw, respected and valued their exact behavior in that moment. Eliminate “atta-boys” from your repertoire…and replace them with heartfelt, genuine acknowledgement.

Pay Attention

Too often, leaders will offer an “atta-boy” or “great job!” to a direct report versus a true recap of precisely what he/she did that moved the needle. What’s essential is to prove you observed a person’s smart, effective behavior and told them about it. They get the sense that you are paying attention to them, which is important to an employee’s psyche. What this accomplishes is respect and dedication to the development of your direct report. This is job #1 with your “A”Players and imperative to develop your “B” Players, too.

Genuine Acknowledgement Works

Last week I was observing a client in an important investor meeting. I noted several actions he took that were quite impressive. Easily, I could have said “Hey…great job in there.”  Instead, I acknowledged him for his focus, poise and ability to succinctly capture the unique DNA of the portfolio company he stewards. He beamed with pride when I completed my acknowledgement.

In another situation, I was coaching a Fixed Income Broker in developing stronger sales meeting skills. After seeing him in action with a client, I acknowledged his ability to understand the needs of his client, synthesize the right recommendation and close his client in a relational fashion. After I acknowledged him, he began to stretch himself by declaring that he could do even better when I observe him in a live selling situation.

Observe. Pause. Acknowledge.

Look for what moves you with your direct report’s delivery/behavior. Think about it for an hour or so, then label the positive behavior. Now you’re ready to deliver your acknowledgement.

Try this with a direct report and let me know what happens.