Praise Motivates

Jeff Gives a Thumbs Up!There are a lot of funny looks directed at me when I smile and cheer during staff meetings.

My friends and fellow Area Managers have been working hard on a strategic initiatives this past quarter and when the great results are mentioned there is too often a funereal silence in the room, more twiddling of thumbs and checking of email; business as usual for our high-achieving department. I am an introvert, but I’m not shy. That was burned out of me years ago in the course of my officership and time spent performing in professional choirs, but it is sometimes difficult to break the ominous silence…even for me.

It seemed a shame that with so much good news, there were so few smiles.

I firmly believe that a person is more motivated when they receive positive feedback based not only on routine performance, but on extraordinary achievements; not just with the same award that Joe Schmoe did for tying his shoe right last quarter, but with meaningful recognition. Some people are confused by the “meaningful” part of “meaningful recognition,” thinking that it must mean either money or time off (i.e. tangibles). Studies have consistently shown that verbal praise is especially useful to stimulate and maintain intrinsic motivation, especially when it is provided in a public and/or spontaneous setting (Cameron, Pierce, Banko, & Gear, 2005; Deci, 1972; Yukl, 1999).


Catch someone in the act. Even a small good behavior, when recognized, can have a huge impact on their future performance




Cameron, J., Pierce, D.W., Banko, K.M., & Gear, A. (2005). Achievement-based rewards and intrinsic motivation: A test of cognitive mediators. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(4), 641-655.

Deci, E.L. (1972). Intrinsic motivation, extrinsic reinforcement, and inequity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 22, 113-120.

Poore, J. (2012, October). The STAR leader’s role in creating exceptional experiences. Speech presented at Kaiser Permanente STAR Leader Forum, San Jose, CA.

Yukl, G. (1999). An evaluation of conceptual weaknesses in transformational and charismatic leadership theories. Leadership Quarterly, 10, 285–305.


photo by: Infusionsoft

2 Replies to “Praise Motivates”

  1. Good point about verbal praise; however, it should be pointed out that it needs to be specific verbal praise. The “good job” is meaningless and may not have as much of an impact on motivation.

    1. Agreed, Gary. It should be specific to a task performed, as well. Praise can seem disingenuous if given for personal attributes, but if applied to a task performed, it is more likely to provide motivation specific to the task performed. Thanks for your comment!

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