Updated: Jun 13, 2019
How to offer praise to yourself, your employees and children to increase motivation and resilience. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford, is a leading expert on mindset and the effect of praise on how we perceive ourselves. She and her team have found that how we praise ourselves and others has a huge impact on motivation, our desire to take on challenging tasks and resilience (our ability to overcome setbacks). The implications for the workplace, school, home life and career development are far reaching. “My research shows that praise for intelligence or ability backfires,” said Dweck, who co-authored a seminal research paper on the effects of praise on motivation and performance. “What we’ve shown is that when you praise someone, say, ‘You’re smart at this,’ the next time they struggle, they think they’re not. It’s really about praising the process they engage in, not how smart they are or how good they are at it, but taking on difficulty, trying many different strategies, sticking to it and achieving over time.” Focus on praising the process, not the person
Process praise acknowledges the effort and all the strategies it took to get to the outcome. It also ties the process to the outcome. It sounds like “I can see how hard you worked to get that proposal in on time. You chipped away at it for months, staying late and coming in early. I was really impressed when you interviewed all the stakeholders who worked on it last year so you could benefit from their experience. I think you did a great job. If we win the bid, fantastic. If not, we'll assess the process and come up with other strategies."
Connect the process to the outcome
If our process leads to an undesired outcome we don't want to repeat that process. Process praise on it's own sounds like "You devoted so much time to studying for the test, setting aside two hours a night for a month. Even though you failed the test, you still did great."
Process praise + outcome acknowledgement sounds like "You devoted so much time studying for the test. I'm proud of how you sat down each night for an hour to improve your understanding of the material. What did you do well and what strategies can we add next time to help toward the goal?"
Let me share with you how I'm using this in the development of my own coaching practice.
People have often told me "You're made for coaching. You're intelligent, empathic and a really active listener." Thank you very much! It feels so good to hear that. However, as I began to build my business and was faced with the daunting tasks of building a website, accounting, marketing and sales, finding an office, and learning how to coach effectively... I suddenly didn't feel so competent.
AND why would that be surprising? I was taking on a whole new set of challenges. They weren't easy (and still aren't) but if I held the idea that "I must not be made for this since it's so hard" I'd have given up.
Instead here's how I'm talking to myself "I'm so proud of myself for learning about online marketing. At first I didn't even know what a GIF was and now I'm plugging them in like a millennial. I'm getting better at this every day. If the process works and my business grows, great. If not I'll ask what didn't work and try another way."
Process praise takes a bit more thought and reflection but the outcome is that the individual can see that if they apply concerted effort toward a goal, they are more likely to succeed.
And don't forget to connect the process to the outcome. Empty praise doesn't do anyone any good.
And finally, there's nothing wrong with praising the person. Everyone loves to hear "You're so good at..." Just couple it with process praise and you'll be soaring to new heights.
How are you talking to yourself and those around you? How can you adopt new ways of praising yourself and others to better serve your goals?
To learn more about praise at work: https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means
To learn more about praise and children, here's a good start: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/12/how-praise-became-a-consolation-prize/510845/