As a sales manager, you know the importance of praising your employees. In fact, you probably find yourself recognizing an accomplishment or praising progress at least once a day. If you’re saying simply good job, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to inspire greatness.
Short, generalized compliments are short lived, often disregarded and forgotten in minutes, says Cheryl Walker, a member of the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance (DSWA) Coach Referral Network in the DSWA’s new book, Build It Big: 101 Insider Secrets From Top Direct Selling Experts (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005). Next time, Walker advises you use a technique called ICU Acknowledgement, with ICU standing for I see who you are.
“When we give a compliment, we are speaking about what the person has done,” says Walker. ICU Acknowledgement, on the other hand, “goes beyond the person’s action to recognize the qualities and characteristics that enabled her to do what she did.” It has a more powerful affect on the person receiving it. For example, say you tell an employee: You ran a good meeting yesterday, Laura. With that compliment you’re simply speaking about what she did – and doing so in general terms. Using ICU Acknowledgement, Walker says you would instead say: Laura, as I watched you run your team meeting yesterday, I saw your ability to deeply listen to your team. Your openness and patience allowed team members to speak honestly, which in turn helps them grow.
“Looking for positive qualities in your team members rather than looking for problems to be fixed creates a significant shift in the interpersonal dynamic and establishes an environment of trust and mutual respect,” says Walker. “Often team members are not aware of their own strengths and capabilities. As a leader, you have an opportunity to reveal to them the strengths, qualities and capabilities they display.” That new self-knowledge builds self-esteem and the motivation to keep learning, growing and doing their best.
ICU Acknowledgement takes time and practice, particularly if you’ve been in the good-job rut for awhile. Here are three steps you can take.
1. Identify the qualities that enabled team members to do what they did. Walker says some qualities to look for are patience, dedication, commitment, perseverance, caring, thoughtfulness, creativity, initiative, enthusiasm, clear communication and wisdom.
2. Keep your acknowledgment simple and to the point. Walker says she has found a shorter statement delivers a greater impact.
3. Be honest and speak from the heart. When your team members can feel your authenticity, it deepens the impact and creates a lasting effect.
“As you internalize the practice of ICU Acknowledgement, you’ll find that your team members follow your lead,” Walker concludes. “Soon ICU Acknowledgement will undergird your fellowship and you’ll find yourself in another kind of ICU – an intensively caring unit.”