If you want good work, and even more good work, from employees, it helps to let them know what good work looks like, and to praise them when you see them delivering it. For most managers, it takes practice to make feedback prompt, concrete, and specific — as well as lively and personal. (For a review of the motivating effect of clear, positive acknowledgment, see Car Talk: Lessons in Performance Feedback.)
The concept is simple, but because feedback is not easy to do, I’m always grateful when I find a real-world example. So when one of my smart and sweet clients sent the following note to an inter-functional work team, I asked for permission to use it (lightly edited for confidentiality and annotated in red for reader clarity).
Hello, Special Project Team —
Congratulations on an outstanding job yesterday!! The promptness and enthusiasm highlighted the importance of the event.
I went to sleep last night and woke this morning thinking about this meeting (yes, I may need a life). That aside, I wanted to share how impressed I am with your efforts. The personal touch — and the acknowledgment that the exec and the team have a close enough relationship to understand the “inside joke” — both add to the relevance of the comments.
The product is clearly going to be awesome, and our marketing plans look solid and well thought through. We are about to bring a great product offering to our customers that will further our mission within a segment that is new to us as an organization on many levels. This is very exciting!! The quality of the work from both “sides of the house” is clearly noted. The context of the work — its importance to both customers and the company — and the fact of innovation reinforce themes that are current focuses of the business.
And the meeting … well, what can I say, you hit it out of the park yesterday. And now it’s personal.
The level of detail within the presentation was ideal, enough to show the rigor around the assumptions and decisions, yet not so much to overwhelm the audience seeing it for the first time. You anticipated 99% of the questions and by doing so instilled great confidence within everyone in attendance. These specific details acknowledge the savvy, effort, judgment, and highlight some of the impact of those things — all of which will create positive future ripples.
I don’t write this type of email as often as I should, but you all took it to a new level yesterday and have set the bar high for these type of meetings going forward and I wanted to share my thoughts. A reminder that there’s always room for improvement without any heavy-handedness, and that we’re all in this together.
Nice work and a model for all to strive for as we take our business to a new level of great! Keep it up, ever onward!
Hopefully I haven’t forgotten anyone on this email, but if I have please pass it on. Thanks. And just in case, because even sweet, smart execs occasionally make mistakes.
So this is a great model for group or individual acknowledgment. It details efforts and outcomes, notes everyone’s participation. The sense of personal involvement and caring is palpable. And it’s both prompt and encouraging for the future.
If you have other fabulous instances of praise and acknowledgement, please send them to me. Maybe we’ll be able to use these specimens to create even more goodness as both a tutorial and a result.
Onward and upward,