Whether you are a manager who’s been told to provide more positive feedback or the membership director of a member-based organization who wants to stand out in your members’ minds, giving a memorable compliment is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Finding things to compliment someone on is easy. Making it stand out from everything else they hear during the course of a day….that takes finesse.
“Good job,” sounds like a compliment any manager would be proud to give but it’s meaningless. It’s the type of thing you overhear on a playground after a child goes down a slide. “Great to see you again,” sounds like a perfectly good greeting for an event but it’s wasted. It has no meaning. If you wrote a greeting like that in a novel your editor would remove it because it does little to advance the plot.
The key to a great compliment is detail. From an employee motivational standpoint, “great job,” gets lost in the rest of the day. It’s like asking someone how they’re doing. They reply back with “Fine. How are you?”, and you say, “Good. You?” You’ve just repeated the exchange because it was so uninspiring and rote that you don’t remember it. If you’re complimenting an employee on a job well-done, try giving the specifics of why you think it was well done. “Your presentation this morning really inspired a lot of thought. I could tell you got our board motivated. You should be proud.” If you can throw in a follow-up action, all the better. “I’m going to lunch today with them and I’m going to ask Doug what he thought. I could tell your ideas had an affect on him.” Not only have you given a memorable compliment but you’ve expressed that the work your employee did was so well-done and important that you will talk about it at a future date.
If you’re giving the compliment to help someone feel more included and welcomed, instead of “Glad you’re here,” — meaningless, expected dialogue — try, “I’m glad you came, Fred. I was hoping to have your social media expertise in the audience today.” You’ve not only made Fred feel good but you have subtly challenged him to use some of his “social media” expertise in the question and answer section of the presentation. You’ve told him you view him as an expert; now he’s going to show you and the other participants that you were right.
Regardless of the reason behind your compliment, each compliment should have two things. #1 be comprised of specific details regarding the recipient of the compliment and #2 be communicated in a way outside of “common-place language.” Compliments are a good way of inspiring those around you and making them feel valued but it you are giving generic compliments your intended audience may not be hearing them.