Emma: At my very first writing job out of college, my boss, Amanda, told me to have a kudos folder: a place to save compliments and shout outs about me and my work. I hate the word “kudos,” but I did it anyway, and I continue to do it to this day. It’s a treasure trove of proof that I have talent, that the hard work is worth it, that I deserve to be on the team, that I should get that promotion, that the writer’s block will at some point go away. I recommend it to anyone who is remotely fueled by words of affirmation — which is to say everybody.
Andy: I love this Amanda. She’s extremely right.
Emma: Seeing my kudos folder on my desktop or in my email is the best reminder I have that specific, personalized compliments are what make the world go around. It’s also a good reminder that words of gratitude — thank yous and great jobs and I notice yous — are one of the first things that go when you’re a manager.
Andy: It’s so easy to get snowed in by the work until the only thanks you’re giving sound like Gmail auto-suggestions. The kind of thank you we’re talking about today is deep and meaningful and worthy of a Kudos Folder. May our standards be higher than, “Looks good, thanks!”
Emma: I know a few people who get embroiled in the philosophy of it all: Should I thank someone simply for doing the job they were hired to do? Often these are the same people who have strong feelings about tipping.
Andy: I have strong feelings about people who have strong feelings about tipping…
Emma: Me too! I say, if you can afford it, tipping well makes very little difference to you, and has a remarkable impact on the person receiving it. The same goes for showing gratitude — and if you find you can’t afford to show gratitude, you have a lot of examining to do.
Andy: Totally. There’s someone on your team, right now, who deserves a thank you. Who is the person that just popped into your mind? Get a sticky note out right now and follow along.
Emma: Write down what they did.
Andy: Now ask yourself, “How can I be more specific?” The key to any great thank you is its specificity.
Emma: Vague compliments certainly aren’t bad. Any positive reinforcement is better than none. But I roll my eyes a little when I see or hear praise that’s just a regurgitation of company values, or broad characterizations. Laura, you show great bias for action! Ryan, you’re a joy to work with! And it’s not because it’s untrue or undeserved or shouldn’t be said. I’m sure Laura does show great bias for action. Ryan is a joy to work with.
Andy: When I get a compliment like that, I feel like I’m reading a fortune cookie. I’m thrilled that someone mysterious and exciting is headed my way, but I also don’t think it’s real. It’s from a factory. The cookie isn’t for me, it’s for anyone who eats at that restaurant.
Emma: To make gratitude meaningful, to prove you’re paying attention and really understand how someone’s actions and decisions and talent combine into something worth noting, you need to scratch a bit below the surface. A few weeks ago we talked about using the 5 Whys to get to the root of a problem, but the same process can also be used to find the pearl in your compliment.
Andy: To level up your gratitude, tack on the why: Ryan, you’re a joy to work with because… Emma, why is Ryan so great?
Emma: Because he redirects discussions that have gone down rabbit holes in a gentle, affirming, and funny way.
Andy: Put it in the kudos folder!
When I don’t think I have time to craft these types of message, I think about the mentors I love, and the emails they’ve sent and words they’ve said to me. I want to be someone people think about like that.
Emma: Who doesn’t?
Andy: I’ve also printed out great work and annotated what I love, then dropped it off at the person’s desk. In my busiest era, I wrote out a list of the people on my team and checked off that I gave everyone a piece of positive feedback each week. I was like a mom with 12 kids who needed to confirm she told each of them she loved them.
Emma: Whatever works! If the words are honest and true, they will not betray your methods.
A Foolproof Compliment Recipe
Don’t be intimidated by words of gratitude. If you have just these two things in your pantry, you can make a great compliment!
Result: An outcome, result, assessment, final product
Contribution: The actions, decisions, behaviors, skills that produced that result
Ryan is such a joy to work with!
Ryan is such a joy to work with! I really admire his ability to redirect discussions that have gone down rabbit holes in a gentle, affirming, and funny way.
Thanks! This looks great!
Thanks for helping with organization (and for your eagle eyes on those typos). This looks great!
Hey Andrew, I really appreciate all your hard work on this project.
Hey Andrew, I really appreciate all your hard work on this project. I’m impressed you could deliver something so robust on time and fully QA’d on such short notice!
It’s an easy pitfall to try to make a compliment more dynamic by piling on only one of the two ingredients: lots of contributions without attaching them to results, and vice versa. But you end up serving a lot of sauce — no noodles.
I’m excited to announce Danielle’s promotion to Senior Project Manager. She’s shown great leadership throughout the last 18 months, and has been a key contributor to three of our most high-visibility projects this year. She raises the bar every day. Congratulations, Danielle!
I’m excited to announce Danielle’s promotion to Senior Project Manager. She’s shown great leadership throughout the last 18 months, and has been a key contributor to three of our most high-visibility projects this year. Without her, all three of those big wins were at risk for being understaffed, over-budget, and out of scope. She raises the bar every time the people on her team leave the office at a reasonable hour — so pretty much every day. Congratulations, Danielle!
Record-breaking sales this week, team! Nice work. Love seeing your hunger for results. I’ve shared your story with the VPs and they’re all impressed.
Record-breaking sales this week, team! Nice work. There’s so much you’re doing right: killing it in your daily call blocks, following up, and your paperwork is all in order. But most of all, I saw your hunger for results when you strategized a new pitch to land the Smith account. Take that in: you closed on the impossible account. I’ve shared your story with the VPs and they’re all impressed.
At a Loss for Words?
Try filling in these blanks to get your compliment started.
- This is a great example of _______
- I hope you feel _______ about _______
- When I saw you/r_______, I felt _______
- My favorite part is _______ because _______
- Wow, you _______. That’s something that _______
- Because of your _______, the business is _______
- You have a talent for _______ that I can see in _______
- I know you’ve been working on _______, and I can see the results in _______