I was leading a project and Andrea was struggling. She was the top performer on my team, and she did amazing work. But we were serving a particularly difficult client, and she was feeling burnt out.
I told her the kind words the client had to say about her particularly, and how much I appreciated the effort she has put into this project.Â
"Thank you so much," Andrea said. "You don't know how much this means to me. I'd be happy to help out on a similar project in the future. Thank you again."
After years of managing persons and projects across the globe, I've found that a simple rule of emotional intelligence helps me to establish deeper, stronger, more loyal relationships--both at work and at home.
Your default setting is to focus on what a person does right, and make a point to commend the person for those positive actions, sincerely and specifically.
(If you enjoy the lessons in this article, be sure toÂ sign up for my free emotional intelligence course,Â where each day for 10 days you get a similar rule designed to help you make emotions work for you, instead of against you.)
Sometimes a manager will ask me: "Why would you commend someone for doing something they're supposed to do?"
Some of us are so focused on looking for things to correct, we're blind to all the positive things people do on a daily basis. But when you default to looking for the good in others and recognizing their potential, you create "self-fulfilling prophecies"--persons who continue to fulfill what you've confirmed they're capable of.
According to Google, in a team with high psychological safety, "teammates feel safe to take risks around their team members. They feel confident that no one on the team will embarrass or punish anyone else for admitting a mistake, asking a question, or offering a new idea."
The rule of recognition builds trust because of theÂ typeÂ of commendation it is. This isn't empty words of flattery, which most people will see through. Rather, it's sincere and specific commendation, tailored to the individual.
"Hi _________, do you have a minute? I wanted to tell you something. I know I don't say it enough, but I really appreciate what you do around here. The way you [insert: specific action taking care of a project, client, problem]--it was great. I could really see your [insert: specific quality] in action and how much it benefits the company. Keep up the good work."Â
That's because they'll know you as someone whose looking out for the best in them, rather than someone who always looks to criticize. In fact, the fact that your default feedback is positive will make any constructive criticism more palatable and easier to put into practice--especially if you deliver it in an emotionally intelligent way.
Above all, you'll help your people to become the best version of themselves.