Praise? It’s An Essential (and Critical) Skill For All New Managers

There is no shortage of skills that new managers need to develop as they transition from individual contributors to leading people for the first time.

One of the most overlooked yet essential skills is the ability to have a simple conversation, praising a direct report for behaviors aligned to goal achievement and core values.

The value of praise is immense. It can be frequent, timely, and encourage positive spirals of performance in real time, rather than waiting for the next goal setting cycle or project summary conversation.

Praise is the ultimate feedback

Praising conversations capture a spirit of ongoing feedback and communication between a manager and their direct report, establishing a foundation for many of the other leadership conversations that improve performance.

This idea of leadership conversations is one I remember from when I first became a manager (building from The One Minute Manager) and was reminded of in a recent whitepaper by Ken Blanchard and his colleagues. These leadership conversations can occur at the outset (Goal Setting) or completion (Wrapping Up) of a performance event, as well as recognizing good behavior (Praising) or correcting behavior (Redirecting) throughout.

Ken and Scott have a great new workshop for first-time managers that provide training on these conversations and more: click here for details.

These four core conversations simultaneously build one’s capacity for communication and relationship building with direct reports. It also turns out that these leadership skills built through conversations stand the test of time. A study last year found that Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997) believe the most important leadership skills are communication and relationship building (58 percent and 55 percent, respectively). It is also worth mentioning that Millennials largely believe they already possess those skills (at 51 percent and 66 percent).

While I have no doubt that Millennials possess those skills, using communication and relationship building for accomplishing tasks (as an individual contributor) is likely a qualitatively different exercise than using those same skills to lead people.

An imperative need

This difference will be most acutely felt for those Millennials (and others) making the transition between these roles as first-time managers. Millennials now represent a majority of the workforce and a third of them (34 percent) of them are already in leadership roles at work, numbers that are likely to only increase over the next few years.

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Addressing the developmental needs of this new generation of leaders is imperative.

The implication of these shifts are also far-reaching in the world of business, impacting expectations around what it means to WorkHuman, to work more flexibly, and especially lead other people. (As a side note, these changes to the workplace often reach far beyond the Millennial catalysts to improve the work experience for every generation!)

It may be that praising conversations are a perfect way to meet Millennial leaders where they are, develop their skills, and help them achieve their goals of empowering others throughout the organization.

What is your take on the value of praise for new managers, especially among Millennials?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at


1 Comment on “Praise? It’s An Essential (and Critical) Skill For All New Managers

  1. I think “praise” is an excellent motivational and engagement medium to use sometimes. However, i also think it needs to be used with caution , reserve and appropriateness. In other words, too much praise can lead to uncontrolled abandon where the individual is seen as and considers themselves above, over and beyond everyone else which can cause team issues. I have seen situations were too much praise as turned to an unmanageable employee. Just my opinion.

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