Acknowledgement — A positive motivator

So why don’t leaders and managers do this more frequently? It is not that difficult.


In today’s hectic environment, people are working very hard to just keep up. The pandemic made us change the way we do business, and not always for the ‘easier’ or more efficient. We are trying to get a grip of the ‘new normal’ and there is still a lot of learning to do.

One thing, however, remains the same – people need to be recognised for their accomplishments and be publicly acknowledged. Such acknowledgement serves as one of the greatest positive motivators for many. It does not have to be elaborate or expensive — as long as it is authentic and deserved. It also creates great learning for others and perhaps even inspires them.

So why don’t leaders and managers do it more frequently? It is not that difficult. All they need to do is:

Step 1 – Tell the employee exactly what was done correctly
Step 2 – Tell the employee why certain behaviour is important
Step 3 – Stop for a moment of celebration
Step 4 – Encourage repeat performance

And yet, according to Harvard Business Review, 37 per cent of the managers who took their survey admitted to not giving positive reinforcement. They further concluded that if managers want to be seen as a good feedback-givers, they should proactively develop the skill of giving praise as well as criticism. Giving positive feedback shows direct reports that their managers are in their corner, and that they want employees to win and to succeed. Once people know their managers are their advocates, they should also make giving criticism less stressful and more effective.

Sir Richard Branson said, “As a leader of people you must be a great listener and a great motivator. People are no different than flowers. When you water flowers, they flourish. If you praise people, they flourish. And this is a critical attribute of a leader”.

Leadership attributes have changed over the years and the recent world health crisis and economic circumstances are calling for yet another significant shift in how people show up as leaders. Decisive? Yes, but also inclusive. Firm? Definitely, and also courageous. Leadership now means being able to show up vulnerable, listening intently and showing strong interest in developing the people one is working with. Today’s leaders need to know themselves and seek self-improvement. They need to set an example for their employees. It is even more important now than ever before, as employees are looking to their work environment as the only place where some solid structure can remain, while they may feel not as much in control of other aspects of their life.

Self-awareness, listening, inclusive decision-making and development of other soft skills are all reasons why leaders frequently seek professional coaching or develop coaching skills themselves.

According to the ‘Building Strong Coaching Cultures for the Future’, a 2019 study from the International Coaching Federation and the Human Capital Institute (HCI), developing coaching skills for leaders is an ongoing process in organisations with strong coaching cultures. Since 2014, managers and leaders using coaching skills continue to be the most commonly deployed coaching modality for organisations that have participated in our research on the topic. Leaders who develop coaching skills also see increasingly higher levels of employee engagement, motivation and efficiency.

Find out about building a future ready coaching culture

Leadership coaching is an individualised process that builds a leader’s capability to achieve short- and long-term organisational goals. Initially instituted to support underperforming managers, leadership coaching now typically focuses on enhancing performance for leaders at all levels.

The coaching relationship is about having open conversations that deal with real challenges and day-to- day issues that arise in the workplace. The coaching process can give a leader a new perspective and focus. Coaching helps leaders implement personal and organisational change by providing support and keeping them focused on attaining their goals. A professional coach is a person who partners with one and is committed to one’s accountability.

Becoming a modern leader, with the help of a professional coach or by following some coach-specific training, may significantly help one learn how to give feedback, praise in particular.

This, in turn, will produce positive motivation and a higher level of engagement for the employees, and ultimately better results for the entire enterprise. Professional coaching works!

Since 2005, the International Coaching Federation paves the way as the global organisation for coaches and coaching. Dedicated to advancing the coaching profession by setting high ethical standards, ICF provides independent certification and builds a worldwide network of credentialed coaches across a variety of coaching disciplines. Its 41,000-plus members located in 147 countries and territories work towards the common goal of enhancing awareness of coaching, upholding the integrity of the profession, and continually educating themselves on the newest research and practices.

In India, ICF is represented by six vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi, ICF Mumbai, ICF Pune and ICF Hyderabad.

Magdalena Nowicka Mook, the author brings experience in fundraising, coaching, consulting and association management. She is the CEO and executive director of the International Coaching Federation(ICF), where she acts as a partner to the ICF’s Global Board of Directors. A trained professional coach and systems’ facilitator, she is a frequent speaker on trends in coaching and leadership development as well as on regulation and ethics. Mook received her MS in economics and international trade from the Warsaw School of Economics, Poland. She graduated from the Copenhagen Business School’s advanced programme in international management and consulting. She is a member of the Women’s Foreign Policy Group; Council on Non-profits; ATD and serves as a Chair of the International Section Council of ASAE. She is also a member of the advisory board for the Institute of Organisational Mindfulness.

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