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April 05, 2006

Ignoring the job well done

An employee stopped by my office to tell me that Walter was worried I might be unhappy with him.

I was flabbergasted. Even a bit annoyed, I confess. "Why would he think that? Walter's doing a great job."

"Well, you haven't stopped by his desk in over a week."

"I haven't needed to. He's doing a great job!"

At the start of the project I was at Walter's desk at least once a day, making sure he understood the project and answering design questions. I'm pretty sure I was an encouraging presence: I was excited about each day's progress and complimentary about his work. In fact, I was so happy with how Walter was handling things that I stopped by less frequently. Knowing that Walter had it all under control, I gave my attention to other projects.

Walter didn't see my absence as a compliment, though, especially since it followed a period of lots of attention.

The analytical part of me thinks Walter is just too sensitive. In our company, if you're doing a bad job, you’re going to know it. We'll talk about it, fix it, or set you free to find a job you can do well. So being left alone means you’re doing a good job.

The undernourished feeling part of me knows that everybody needs to be encouraged. Everybody needs to hear "great job!" and they can never hear it enough.

I may be able to manage well with my analytical brain. But to lead well, I need to tap my feeling heart.

At least that is my analysis.

(Apologies for wasting time stating the obvious. I needed this reminder for myself, and posted it for the benefit of fellow under-encouraging leaders.)

Posted by Bob Pritchett at April 5, 2006 05:00 AM

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I must say, that as a former employee, I certainly think that is the #1 thing that you need to work on to improve yourself as a manager of people. The philosophy of, if you are doing a good job, you won't hear from me-- is pretty messed up. As an employee NOTHING is more rewarding than encouragement and recognition of a job well done by management (and in your case, the president of the company!). And the best part about it, from your perspective, is that it costs you nothing ($$$). But I’m not bitter, really :)

Posted by: Jamin at April 5, 2006 11:44 AM

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