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More Courage to Praise

 

Any praise – regardless of whether it is conveyed in writing, orally or non-verbally – will trigger positive feelings. Who wouldn’t like to be praised by us? Indeed, this lies in our biology: If praise is given, the corresponding neuronal reward system is activated. If we experience praise and appreciation, then this changes our feelings of self-worthy and our self-image. Our self-image is already formed during our first years of life in which we experience many things – including how to deal with successes and failures. Dweck defines two forms of self-image:

  1. The static self-image: Successes and failures are static and thus not changeable. These events are based upon our intelligence and our personal skills and know-how. People with a static self-image avoid challenges.
  2. The dynamic self-image: It is created through one’s own efforts and the self-image can change over time.

 

Thus, in our organizational personnel development processes, we must work to ensure that the people in the organizations acquire a more dynamic self-image. The creation of our self-image is a process which (as mentioned above) already begins very early, but never ends throughout our entire lives. However, the work on a more dynamic self-image must come from various sides. Firstly, we have a profound need for appreciative words, praise and compliments. This feedback should be as positive as possible and fulfil our need for respect. We know from our own experience only too well how we feel when this praise is not forthcoming, or, even worse, whenever we are being constantly criticized. Constructive praise and appreciation create freedom and a positive atmosphere as well as motivate managers and employees. Praise and appreciation are the strongest factors for influencing achievement and motivation. Must we now only still praise our employees daily? Are we no longer allowed to point out mistakes?

 

As with everything, it is not a question of what, but rather of how. I think mistakes are part of learning and it may not come to the point that mistakes may no longer be discussed. Rather, the question is much more how I address these mistakes: Are the mistakes there in order to learn from experience or are mistakes merely the starting point for identifying the “guilty parties”. A top manager said that “a good manager needs a good portion of common sense, respect for others and good manners”. Above all, respect is very important in this context. Respect describes a relationship between two subjects and is a form of appreciation, attentiveness and a “title of honor” to another living being. Respect customarily refers to interpersonal relationships. In organizations, this means, firstly, the respect between colleagues, but also, secondly, the respect between employees and managers. Particularly managers must understand that a respectful attitude excludes unapologetic egoistic behavior.

 

David Rock refers to neuroscientific research which shows us clearly that, already by thinking about bad performance within an interpersonal comparison, stress-related hormones are released which once again decisively influence longevity and health. However, this also means that it already encompasses expectation and we thus must already give the employees the feeling beforehand that mistakes will have no negative consequences, but rather provide opportunities to learn from them. In top-class sports, this has already been successfully practiced; if top-class athletes always only experience punishment when they make mistakes, then the anxiety of failing would never permit top-class athletic performance.

 

Sackmann defines respectful management with the creation of conditions which enable various quite normal persons to want and be allowed to render good and/or outstanding job performance. Respectful management relies on the fairness and the trust which the employees can bestow in the organization, their supervisors and their colleagues. However, let’s begin already tomorrow to implement respectful management in our organizations – there is no reason to wait for anything or anybody!


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