Grow up. Do your job. Don’t expect to hear about it when things go well. I pay you to do a good job.

These words may sound a bit harsh. But they reflect the attitudes of some leaders who wonder why they have to nurture (coddle) their people. After all, isn’t their bi-weekly paycheck enough?

Sorry, it’s not. Your people may not tell you this, but they do like to hear when they’ve performed well. In fact, research shows that recognition for good work releases dopamine, a brain chemical connected with positive emotions like satisfaction and enjoyment. Employees who receive regular praise have higher productivity and lower turnover, and they make fewer mistakes.

How can you feed employees by recognizing what’s going well, even if you’re not naturally a warm and fuzzy type?

First identify key drivers of success. What specific thinking and behavior will lead to the desired outcomes? Those are what you should be looking for and applauding.

Keep it real. Don’t invent something or recognize an inconsequential act. Employees know the difference between meaningful commendation and faint praise. Likewise, don’t ease up on standards or lower expectations.

Be specific. While a good job comment might be welcomed, saying the report was detailed and contained exactly what we needed is more instructive. Make sure to recognize not only effort but results.

Track when you do it. Gallup research indicates that each employee should be praised at least every 7 days to maintain optimum levels of engagement. If you have lots of direct reports, you’re probably ready to give up right now. Don’t. A weekly email outlining what’s gone well with the team is better than nothing. Efforts toward a routine acknowledgment of achievement will pay off in the long run.

Combine praise with support to grow. The highest praise may be more responsibility. But don’t just thrust your up-and-comer into a new role. Provide coaching, mentorship, training and other support to ensure that she thrives.

Feeding with praise does not require flowery speeches or candy and flowers. Regular, heartfelt statements work. Catherine the Great once said, I praise loudly, I blame softly. Maybe that’s part of why she was Great.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!