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Compliments Help Achievers Over And Out-Perform

There is this nice, feel-good video that is currently going viral on Social Media. It shows Chris Ulmer, a young teacher at Mainspring Academy in Jacksonville, Florida – a School for Special Children, beckon his wards one by one every morning. The teacher goes on to say to one boy, “You’re an amazing student. I love having you in my class. I think everyone in here loves you.” And to the second, “You’re funny. You’re athletic. You’re a great soccer player. You’re very smart. You’ve been doing a great job reading.” And so on, one after another to every special boy in his class before sending them off with a high five.

Chris opines that this simple practice helps shape his students’ worldview turning them into better human beings. “If they have a mean, jaded teacher, they will think the world is mean and jaded. But if a teacher displays love, harmony, and peace, that will become their norm. After a few weeks of this practice, my students started complementing one another consistently. They praise each other for accomplishments as if it was their own,” Chris shares in his video.

It is quite evident that as Chris speaks his fine words to them these differently-abled children transform into confident, beautifully square-shouldered, enthusiastic, sprightly butterflies emboldened to take on any challenge that their uniquely special day throws at them.

You can see the body language of each student change from the time Ulmer calls for them to the moment he High Fives the little tots. It is quite evident that as Chris speaks his fine words to them these differently-abled children transform into confident, beautifully square-shouldered, enthusiastic, sprightly butterflies emboldened to take on any challenge that their uniquely special day throws at them.

And therein lay a master class in Management Best practice and one of the finest strategies for Talent Retention. Sincere words of praise from people of authority – Super bosses, direct reporting, team leads, managers and people of significance – Top management, mentors, industry bigwigs, even prominent peers, are known to have a lasting impression on the recipient.

Several studies have shown that many a time, well-deserved compliments that are truly and well-delivered by the management – conveying acknowledgment of good work, recognition of the value the employee brings an appreciation of his talent – rate higher than even salary and perquisites. Moreover, using a public platform or a larger audience to express admiration of a great worker and his admirable output creates stronger bonds, reinforces mutual trust and respect, motivates other team members and instills a higher drive in the recipient.

Compliments and acknowledgments can take varied form. They can be verbal pats on the back in official forums; they can be written affirmation on those formal appraisals; they can also be very visible endorsements of your special talent put up as showpieces for all to see and emulate from.

I was in a closed door once with my General Manager, the Company CFO and the irrepressible Mr. O, owner of the eponymously named chain of hotels, easily considered one of the finest in the world. We were discussing PR budgets, decision-making autonomy, our media engagements and some hairy issues when Mr. O’s eyes rested on the latest issue of Chronicle, the Hotel Newsletter. He quizzed me about how much we spent on it and right away got on the hotline to another hotel GM in his Chain. Without batting an eyelid, he told the gent how ‘our’ Chronicle was the finest in the Chain and produced at a lower cost too. Of course, our GM’s chest swelled with pride but Mr. O won a lifelong fan in me and an employee who would be a Brand Ambassador of his fine Company whether she continued working for him or not. To this day I remain an Oberoi loyalist.

Compliments or recognition of one’s performance must be genuine and sincere; otherwise, it is just meaningless fluff that gets blown away easily without having the desired effect. And it should not always be premeditated, practiced and pro forma. Truthful, honest praise comes straight from the heart and is an instant reaction to a job that has been done well and beyond the brief.

During Australia India New Horizons 1996-97, Australia’s biggest Country Promotion thus far, I was on the media team of Alexander Downer, the then Hon’ble Foreign Minister of Australia. At one of the national Press Conferences held at FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry), the Minister was very pleased with the success of the Press meet and the huge number of press folk from prominent media that had gathered there. At the end of the Conference, the Minister turned towards Gai Brodtmann, the Counsellor Public Affairs, who was also the Head of PR & Publicity at the Australian High Commission in India and my immediate boss, to congratulate her for one of the best Media interfaces he had ever experienced. Gai, true to her form and character, got up, turned towards me and told the Minister that she “had nothing to do with it. That it was all my hard work;” in full attendance of the Australian and Indian Government officials and the Mission staff. With that profound gesture, my mentor-for-life, left behind some indelible management lessons for me and all others who were present – lessons in leadership, being secure in one’s own role and position, being proud of one’s team, giving credit where it is due at the right time in the right forum, best techniques in employee motivation and instilling the highest form of accountability in her teammates.

Compliments need not be direct. Sometimes, a fine word let out by your significant others at work that travels back to you is the finest and most promising music that you need to hear to put your best foot forward at all times. I was meeting this journalist friend for lunch and during the course of our conversation, she recounted that she had met my boss at an Art exhibition the gone Sunday and how they got talking about me and how he had such great things to say about the kind of work I did. The fact that I remember the conversation to this day and that what the boss had to say about me still motivates me even when I have had several experiences under my belt since shows the importance one can attach to such wonderfully inspiring feedback. Fair words of commendation not only serve to be great pick-ups when you are feeling low but also, always, serve to maintain your confidence in yourself.

Compliments need not always be verbalized. Often times, actions do speak louder than words and leave a stronger mark. I had just joined this hotel as part of the Change Agent team with the mandate to turn around and present the hotel with a completely new Brand Image and positioning. Before I joined the place, the Owner and the VP & GM had contracted all PR, Communications, Publicity and Advertising work to two agencies – A PR & Image Consultancy and an Advertising Agency. In my introductory briefing session, Pierre Jochem, the VP & GM (who I call my second mentor) thought aloud, “We will keep the agencies for three months. That should allow you enough time to warm up and begin earnest work on the PR roadmap.”  We had a catching up meeting on the fourth day in his lovely, glass-walled, mezzanine floor Corner office. Monsieur Jochem, carrying the Guest Services Directory mock-up I had given to him for his review, was happy to note the media coverage that had started to happen (with luck on my side one had got the hotel covered every single day of those first four days). And this is what he uttered to me, “You seem to have achieved what these folks had collectively done in three months. I guess we will just terminate their contracts and let them go. I think this way you will get more work done.”

Yes, this decision went into his report to the owners. After the initial sense of high and euphoria, it brought in a higher sense of responsibility in me. Such trust and conviction must always be proved right.

Compliments are the very vocal and visible endorsement of an employee’s good performance that is laudable and to be encouraged. Such validation of commendable work ensures that the employee continues to feel motivated, accountable and responsible. He/she becomes more result-oriented and holds a stronger level of ownership for his role and responsibility; endeavouring to maximize the wins and diminish the fails towards his/her goals achievement.

Compliments are, indeed, one of the finest strategies for retaining good talent and reshaping average work into stellar feats. Use it often, but judiciously. Compliment your team profusely at every given opportunity but with sincerity and deservingly!

So how have compliments helped you perform better and exceed targets? Tell me in your comments.

L. Aruna Dhir
L. Aruna Dhirhttp://www.larunadhir.blogspot.com
L. Aruna Dhir is a Hospitality & Feature Writer and Columnist for some of the world’s highest-ranked Hospitality publications. Her industry writings are syndicated to the finest global hospitality bodies and used as references in case studies and hotel schools. Aruna runs an exclusive channel on the award-winning media digest, BizCatalyst 360° called “Hospitality Matters” based on her hospitality industry insight and commentary. Aruna is a recognized and national-poll winning Corporate Communications Specialist, PR Strategist, and Writer. A seasoned hotelier, Aruna loves to present hospitality industry watch, insights, case studies, and analysis to her ever-increasing base of global readership. Aruna has over two decades of experience in Hospitality Communications and Brand Management and has worked with some of the best global hotel companies. In her last corporate role, Aruna was the Director – Public Relations at The Imperial New Delhi, where she was part of the core group and was responsible for re-launching The Imperial as one of the finest hotels in India and Asia. Aruna’s hotel experience includes leading the Marketing Communications and Public Relations portfolio for flagship properties at The Oberoi Group and Hyatt International. She also helped launch the Vilases as the uber-luxury experiences from the Oberoi stable. As an industry expert, Aruna has launched brands, developed training modules, created standardization dockets on business communication, written manuals, conducted Image Study & Positioning Analysis, and led media campaigns of Australian Ministers in India. Aruna Dhir’s successful work tenure with Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in India in the capacity of Media Relations Officer, saw her working on a host of never-done-before exciting projects including the hugely rewarding organisation of Australia-India New Horizons – Australia’s largest ever Country Promotion. Aruna Dhir is the first-ever Creative Writer for the Indian greeting cards giant – ARCHIES Greetings and Gifts Ltd. The milestone puts her in the league of Helen Steiner Rice and Amanda Bradley. While with the company she came out with several series of cards sold under her byline – an unprecedented feat that has not been repeated since. L. Aruna Dhir also dabbles in poetry and has to her credit two titles of Anthologies published and marketed by Archies G&G Ltd. Aruna serves on the Board of Association of Emerging Leaders Dialogues (AELD), a front-running Commonwealth Body that works towards developing leaders and influencers of tomorrow, with Princess Anne as its international President. Aruna has been engaged in freelance work for Doordarshan – the Indian National Television, All India Radio, and Times FM. Academically, L. Aruna Dhir topped at the All-India level in her PG Diploma in Public Relations and Advertising. Aruna has been a Ph.D. scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, akin to an Ivy League in India. She has earned a Senior Management Course Certification from the Oberoi Centre for Learning & Development in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow; V Dimension Management Company, London & Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Philippines. Aruna Dhir has represented India to a select group of opinion-makers in the United States, as a Cultural Ambassador under the GSE Program of Rotary International. She has also participated in the IXth Commonwealth Study Conference held in Australia and chaired by Princess Anne. Aruna is a Life Member of the Public Relations Society of India A Freelance Writer since 1987, with articles that have appeared in India’s topmost newspapers and magazines, Aruna is also a blogger, a memoirist with works published on platforms like Medium and a Book reviewer on Goodreads. In her official and personal capacity L. Aruna Dhir has and continues to work on several social awareness projects – People for Animals, Earthquake Relief, National Blind Association, PETA, WSPA, Change.org, Friendicoes to name a few. Born at Allahabad (now Prayagraj), one of the world’s oldest known cities, L. Aruna Dhir grew up and did her schooling in Dehradun, regarded as a prominent seat of academia and literature. After being brought up in the sylvan surroundings of the verdant Doon valley, Aruna chose to make the Capital City of Delhi her second home.

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