Even if he’s too polite to say this himself, my client John is great at what he does. He pours everything into his projects: researching every corner of the market, interviewing experts, and discovering really creative, innovative solutions to problems.

So I wasn’t surprised to hear that he hit it out of the proverbial park with his last project. He presented to his boss Simone, her peers and her boss – the CEO of a Fortune 100 company.

Even though John knew his presentation was fantastic – insightful, helpful, engaging – he certainly didn’t get that feedback from his boss. After months of hard work and long nights, Simone gave John a “Great job!” and immediately moved on. Needless to say, John was a bit let down by what seemed like a lackadaisical comment.

The feedback John got didn’t match the effort he’d put in. Big effort should equal big feedback: specific and well thought out.


How can our team continue to give us their best if they don’t know what, exactly, their best looks like?

Specific, detailed praise is good for morale and good for future performances. We spend so much time critiquing the work of others. Let’s balance that with specific feedback on what’s working well, so our team can do more of that.


A good leader gives their team “you’re getting warmer” signals to reinforce more great performances. 



Tips for the praise-er

It’s easy (and it feels good) to give people a pat on the back coupled with a “well done!” It’s a lot more rewarding and impactful to hear “You did an excellent job articulating the market forecast and explaining some of the competitor issues we’re dealing with. I really liked how you made complex issues accessible and even engaging.” Why? When I know what worked specifically well, I know specifically what to do in the future.

When you’re giving praise, think about how this person differentiated themselves from ‘the norm’ and how they handled issues that others may have struggled with. If you can see where they put in extra time and effort, specifically compliment them on that.


Tips for the praise-ee

In a perfect world, your boss would give you exactly the sort of praise and feedback you need – when and where you need it. But if you have a “Great job!” with-nothing-more type of boss, it’s okay to ask them to expand a bit. If the praise you’re getting is a bit watered down, just ask for the specifics you need.


Try something like:

“I’m so glad you liked it. What worked particularly well for you? I want to make sure I can duplicate this kind of outcome in the future!”


“Thank you so much for the kind words. I really want to make sure I’m on the right track with future projects – what do you think think worked best?”


Easy, right? Now you’re ready to give your team the feedback they need and want (and it’s the type of feedback that leads to more success your company can be proud of.)