Praise Effort Over Performance To Encourage Employee Success

Praise motivates. Praise encourages. Praise inspires.


Depending on the approach you take, praising an employee can actually have the opposite effect. The difference lies in whether we assume skill is based on innate ability or on hard work and effort.

Put another way, are people born with certain talents, or can talent be developed? (I think talent can definitely be developed, but that’s just me.)

According to research on achievement and success by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, people tend to embrace one of two mental approaches to talent:

Fixed mindset: The belief that intelligence, ability, and skill are inborn and relatively fixed–we “have” what we were born with. People with a fixed mindset typically say things like “I’m just not that smart” or “Math is not my thing.”

Growth mindset: The belief that intelligence, ability, and skill can be developed through effort–we are what we work to become. People with a growth mindset typically say things like “With a little more time, I’ll get it” or “That’s OK. I’ll give it another try.”

The result can be a fixed mindset. We start to assume we are what we are. Then, when the going gets tough and we struggle, we feel helpless because we think what we “are” isn’t good enough.

And when we think that, we stop trying.

When you praise employees only for achievements–or criticize employees for short-term failures–you help create a fixed mindset environment. In time, employees see every mistake as a failure. They see a lack of immediate results as a failure. In time, they can lose motivation and even stop trying.

After all, why try when trying won’t matter?

Fortunately, there’s another way: Make sure you focus on praising effort and application, too:

“That didn’t go perfectly, but you’re definitely on the right track. Let’s see what we can do to make it go even better next time.”
“Hey, you finished that project much more quickly this time. You must have worked really hard.”
“Great job! I can tell you put a lot of time into that.”

The difference? You still praise results, but you praise results that are based on the premise of effort and not on an assumption of innate talent or skill. By praising effort, you help create an environment where employees feel anything is possible.

Read More At Inc.