Sam Walton, Walmart and Sam’s Club Founder, has said, “Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise.”

In a recent interview, American talk show host and producer, Oprah Winfrey, spoke of the universal need for praise. She has completed 30,000 interviews of movie stars, rock stars, governmental leaders and CEOs of the world’s largest corporations. But, when the camera turns off, they all asked the same thing: “Oprah, how did I do?”

The need for validation is real for everyone.

As I mentioned in 16 Tips for Giving and Receiving Feedback, a recent Forbes study stated that:  “Leaders vastly underestimate the necessity of regular positive reinforcement and greatly overestimate the value of corrective feedback — especially when not enough positive feedback has been given.”

For leaders, finding the good in your teams and praising it is job No. 1. Here’s how:

  • Give praise immediately. Research completed by trust expert Paul Zak, Ph.D., shows that oxytocin (the human bonding chemical) is increased when praise occurs immediately after a goal has been met.
  • Do it frequently. According to the Harvard Business Review, the highest performing teams received praise five times more than negative critical feedback. This is based on financial, customer satisfaction and 360-degree feedback results. Forty years ago, Ken Blanchard introduced us to “one-minute praising.” It doesn’t need to take long, and the key is to do it more frequently.
  • Be authentic and specific. Pay close attention to what people are doing right, and perhaps task a close associate on your team to identify exceptional performance stories on an ongoing basis from within the organization. Was it: A good idea? Great teamwork? A kind act? Something completed early? Under budget? Whenever possible, tie your words into how the contribution helped the bigger why of the organization.
  • Public or private praise? Research the situation and person a little bit to find out if they would benefit more from public praise (too much for some) or something private (perhaps a note from you indicating you are also forwarding the message to the direct supervisor and HR).
  • Consider a small gift. If something exceptional occurs and you really want to help bring the message home, consider a small gift, such as a gift card for the local coffee shop.