Catching People Doing Things Right

all-thumbs-up.jpgI had a stimulating discussion today with Travis, a friend and colleague about communication styles. It reminded me about the importance of catching people doing things right. Many managers and co-workers miss opportunities to congratulate or thank people who go above and beyond, but rarely miss an opportunity to criticize when mistakes are made.

Here are some guidelines I try to live by, and am very thankful to have been reminded of so I can re-focus:

  • Make a concerted effort to recognize when a colleague or employee went above and beyond to help you, or did an outstanding job on something
  • Evaluate the situation
  • Was it a good example of excellence?
  • Is it appropriate for you to give feedback? Would it be welcome?
  • Do you know enough about it to describe exactly why they went above and beyond?
  • Are you sincerely impressed with the example?
  • Give sincere feedback
    • Use the proper channel
    • Face to face is usually best
    • Sometimes an email to their manager may be appropriate
    • Other times just stopping by and expressing your sentiments is best
    • Public is usually best
  • Use the proper timing – immediate is usually best
  • Give credit where credit is due
    • Acknowledge the efforts of individuals where possible when discussing an effort or result. Make a point to let everyone know who did great work, by name.

    Sincerity is key. If you do this every day, or for mundane things, people will see right through your lack of sincerity. Only acknowledge people for going above and beyond when they actually and obviously went above and beyond.

    How about this for an exercise? When you’re chatting with people at the water cooler or at lunch, instead of talking about how frustrated you are with John Doe, talk about how Jane Doe did an outstanding job on that presentation.

    About the author

    JoshNankivel Josh Nankivel is a Project Planning & Controls Control Account Manager and contractor for the ground system of the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, a joint project between the USGS and NASA. His academic background includes a BS in Project Management, summa cum laude.  He can be found writing and contributing in many places within the project management community, and his primary project management website is located at


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