wavy pattern

can you give too much praise?

how to remember that we each have a bank balance for our recognition

- Posted byHannah Miller

I had a fantastic face to face workshop this last week with a bunch of business owners.

They were in great spirits as they were back together in the room, and were fully engaged in our topic of Strengths-based leadership.

We ended up deviating a little (who, moi?) and found ourselves having a wider discussion around recognition and praise. How do we do it well? What gives it meaning? Can we give too much praise? Who praises the team leader? How do we make it part of culture?

These are all great questions and this is a large topic (and this is just a weekly blog rather than a textbook) so I won’t get into it all.

What I will say today in this gentle mid-week reminder, is that praise and recognition matter. It makes a difference. And as long as it is done well, you can’t do too much of it.

In psychology, specifically the field of transactional analysis, there is something known as strokes. No, it’s nothing to do with pet animals.

A stroke, according to the definition, is a unit of recognition. We can have positive ones, and negative ones. They can be verbal, non-verbal, conditional, or un-conditional.

Telling someone that we love them is an unconditional positive stroke (the ultimate one, in fact) whereas telling someone that we love their cooking is a conditional positive stroke. The former strokes the person’s entire being whilst the latter strokes one aspect of their being. Conversely, telling someone you don’t like their cooking is a conditional negative stroke and telling someone you hate them is the ultimate unconditional negative stroke.

Generally speaking, I think we would all agree that unconditional positive, conditional positive, and conditional negative all have a place in our regular lives. There is a time and place to give colleagues, friends and family ‘strokes’ across these domains. What more seems to be the bone of contention is that many people sign up to the theory of the ‘stroke economy’. This is essentially the opinion that we must economise on our strokes, otherwise they have no power. They lose their worth, they lose their meaning. Don’t give recognition too freely because then it loses its impact. Let’s go for one piece of praise per quarter, just so that it really lands and has impact.

Actually, this is rarely true in real life. We are bombarded with ‘strokes’ and interactions that cause us to feel lacking and underperforming. We have a very long way to go before our positive recognition becomes meaningless and lacking impact.

The key things to remember:


How can we give recognition and praise effectively?

So, today, as you go about your day, remember that we each have a bank balance for our recognition.

Who can you move out of the red and into the black today?

What’s your current state – do you feel like you’re running on empty or full of the joys? Pay attention to this too, and give yourself some positive feedback if you need it. I’ll get you started for today: I think you’re fantastic. You consistently show up, you want to improve who you are and how you work with others, and you send me really helpful feedback every week.

I’d love to hear your ideas of how to do recognition and praise brilliantly.

See you next week,

Hannah x




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