The brilliant Carolyn Campbell of Core Source Coaching suggests that praise is different from, and perhaps less useful than, a communications technique she calls “acknowledgment”.
(I now prefer acknowledgment over praise in many instances.)
Her formulation for an acknowledgment is very specific, and deeply thought provoking: an acknowledgment is a statement that demonstrates that you noticed what the person did, and brings to their attention the (usually positive) impact that they had.
Example: “Jim, when you spoke up in the meeting, everyone else really opened up.”
Carolyn’s view of praise is perhaps narrower than mine — she points out that praise is pleasing, which can be a limiting factor. As I see it, there is a risk that praise can lead to behavior that’s designed to garner more praise — rather than the praise leading to behavior designed to bring about a real world result. (You clean your room because you want more of your mom’s praise, rather than because you want your room to be clean.) And sure, if you’re the mom and you want the room clean, that can be okay. If you’re a CEO and you want sales, you may become shackled into a cheerleader role and unable to get folks to find intrinsic value in the results of their efforts.
Certainly Carolyn’s acknowledgment departs from that — rather than tell someone that you’re pleased with them, you help that person see that they are powerful.
Carolyn believes strongly that a fully formed acknowledgment is one that helps others see the effect they have on the world around them. As she puts it:
I’ve yet to find a person who didn’t want to have an impact in their life. The challenge is that making an acknowledgement and a powerful, personal recognition of their unique impact … what they specifically bring and the generative impact it had.
I’m going to synthesize her ideas into future editions of my Praise Workshop, so that using Praise
is part of an ever growing arsenal of communications and leadership skills.