Your Most Effective Weapon When Building a Team 15th May 2018

Praise is your number one weapon when building a team.   

We mentioned giving praise in our previous article about ways you can ensure your team does not jump ship for a higher salary.

In this piece we go deeper into why giving praise, often and generously, is essential when building a high performing team. We also look at the destructive nature of negative feedback.  

When we were children, why did we do things? 

We did them because a) we were under threat of punishment or b) we wanted to please someone.

No one paid us to do that great art project but how good did it feel to have your Mum put it up on the shelf and tell you how good it was?

Praise made us feel great and reinforced the behaviour that got us the praise in the first place.

How about when you were told to tidy your room under threat of punishment? How did that make you feel? Likelihood is you huffed and puffed, did the bare minimum and resented every second. 

Praise reinforces good behaviour and makes and want to do it again and negativity makes us resent the person giving it and do the bare minimum to get them off our back.  

This is how we were programmed in our most important years. Most psychologists will tell us that most of our major programming will have occurred by age 5, so why would we be any different now?

Why would negativity suddenly elicit a different response just because we have grown up now and we can handle it?

Praise in the workplace

Praise should be given often, regularly and by everybody. We should not wait for the annual appraisal or even the weekly 1-2-1, we should give it whenever it is merited.

This does not mean living in a candy land where we do nothing other than tell each other how great we are! Praise should only be given when it is merited, otherwise people will not have to strive to receive it.

If you have 2 people in the same role and one of them is doing a great job, giving them praise will reinforce the positive behaviours and make them feel happy. It should also make the person who is not doing so well strive to achieve more so they can get praise (if they don’t, this is another matter entirely).

Now imagine rather than giving praise to the best person you criticise the person who is struggling. What message does that send? You will make them feel bad, which was obviously your intention, but what else happens?

Will the person who is doing well feel happy that you criticised their team mate (If they do, that is another matter entirely)? Will their positive behaviours be reinforced? Or, is it more likely that they will sympathise with the criticised person and you end up looking like a bad boss (if they don’t…)?

The great thing is, you get to choose what behaviours, actions and results you praise.

The surest, most concrete sign of a company’s culture is to look at what is being praised.

If you want to deliver a better customer service, praise people that give great service.

If you want to build a better team atmosphere, praise people that contribute positively.

If you want everyone to have clean desks, praise the people with clean desks!

Build the culture you want by praising the things that are important to the company, no matter how small they may seem. People will get the message and they will feel good whilst getting it!

Negative feedback in the workplace

We are in business and people need to be accountable for failures. But, that does not mean that criticism is a good way of addressing the situation.

Ask yourself this, do you know when you have performed badly?

If yours is a good business, the answer is yes you do. You know what your targets are and you have not met them, you already feel bad. Is criticism going to help you address the situation?


What do you need at this stage? It is far more likely that encouragement and a helping hand will help you get back to where you need to be.

By all means, if you want people to feel miserable as well as perform poorly, give them both barrels! That will really make you feel good, won’t it?

Finally, what did you do when you were told to clean your room under threat of punishment? You brushed the mess under the bed!

If people know they are going to be criticised they will do their best to hide the extent of their mistakes or poor performance. Once a culture of hiding mistakes and a lack of accountability has been built, it is very difficult to tear down.

Read more from our Recruitment 2.0 news series here.