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Understand when to give praise

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Greater staff morale is just one benefit of recognising and rewarding achievements, says Susan Hodgetts.

The majority of people respond well to praise. It can be motivating and certainly makes a day at work seem more worthwhile. But, praise is one of those management skills where a balance is absolutely crucial – too much and individuals devalue it as something that is normal and not special, but not enough and they feel undervalued and that the work they do goes unnoticed.

It’s important that the work being praised is worth that accolade and that it demonstrates an extra effort or that extra quality, a breakthrough with a patient, a dogged determination to get something right, doing something that is outside the normal scope of the job, or requires working more than the normal hours of the job.

There are several levels of praise, all equally valid and all equally needed by the people with whom you work.

Day-to-day praise (level 1) indicates noticing when a job has been well done, when someone has put themselves out or made a specific effort with their appearance, when something is in on time and complete or, for example, when someone has done an effective handover. Make sure your colleagues know you are giving them attention.

Level 2 praise is applicable for a breakthrough – something out of the ordinary. This can be implementing an idea to make a system more efficient, or a breakthrough with a patient communication to working independently. When these things happen the praise must go beyond the individual who had the breakthrough and the outcomes need to be shared with other members of staff and sometimes patients and/or carers.

Level 3 marks a celebration – an achievement, such as an individual gaining a qualification, a team winning a local or national award, or the organisation receiving an award due to the hard work of a team. Praise needs to come from various quarters – from you, as a manager; colleagues; senior managers; an article in a magazine, and so on. Sometimes we take the great work that is being done for granted – learn how to celebrate.

A simple thing such as giving praise where it is due will make a significant difference to the working lives of others and improve the services you deliver.

Susan Hodgetts is chief executive of the Institute for Healthcare Management and has extensive experience in education and training within outoutside the NHS.

Tips on how to give praise and maximise the effect

● Only give praise that is deserved. Set your standards and expectations

● Know your staff well, so you notice when extra effort is being made and can give appropriate praise

● Be consistent and don’t show favouritism. Rise above your personal feelings on the day – remain objective

● Let the praise be proportional to the outcome, be it a pat on the back, a press release or a party

● Make your praise count – if you are not genuine it will show and the management skill will be ineffective

● Give the praise within 24 hours of the deed being done to avoid losing impact. If not face to face, send a note

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