Managers who want to motivate people surely know their job is to “catch employees doing great work and praise them.” The trick is putting yourself in the position to catch ’em at their best.
If you tend to see what’s wrong (not what’s right), you’ll poke around looking for problems. You’ll criticize mistakes, spot errors and pounce on missed opportunities.
To encourage superior performance, celebrate moments of excellence. To find them, fish for compliments from both internal and external customers. Ask for feedback on your employees: Did the team deliver on its promises? What impressed you the most? How did the team exceed your expectations?
Another technique to catch people doing great work is to shadow an employee for an hour. Rotate from staffer to staffer so that you spend equal time with a representative sampling of workers. During your observation, keep quiet by making mental notes when you see someone go beyond the call of duty, overcome a challenge or demonstrate a particularly valuable skill.
Mobilize your staff to help you spot examples of excellence. Invite them to nominate their peers for exceptional effort or results. Every month or two, recognize those individuals who have earned praise from their colleagues for their fine work.
Finally, flush away your biases. If you’re convinced a certain employee lacks, you may overlook his professional dealings with customers or dismiss his deft handling of a team conflict. Keep an open mind in evaluating performance and look for instances when workers surprise and delight you by showing strengths you didn’t previously notice.