Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Applaud Small Victories

Show appreciation for small accomplishments, to encourage greater ones. Don’t Take Away The Goody From Good Work

I heard this week about a manager who seems to be unable to say “Good job!”  or “Thanks!”  He always seems compelled to take the positive feeling out of even a compliment by pointing out a flaw or diminishing the good work of employees. 

When an employee proudly reported that she finished a project on time, he said, “Yeah? Well, I just hope you didn’t rush to the point that you made mistakes or you’ll have to do it again.”

When someone told him about how well a suggestion was accepted by a group, he said, “That’s just one group. There are a lot more groups to worry about than just one.”

When an employee brought work to him that was creative and essentially flawless, the manager looked at it and said, “This is pretty good. So, how come you don’t do this kind of work all the time?”

It doesn’t hurt you to let others have successes.

Don’t be like that manager! Don’t be like that with anyone–whether it is people you supervise, people who supervise you, people with whom you work, your family or anyone else. Let people have victories–even small victories that don’t seem significant to you. It won’t hurt you and it may be the very thing that gives the other person the incentive to move toward larger accomplishments.  It may be exactly what that person needs right at that moment, to give them a reason to keep going with work or with life.

The concept in Ken Blanchard’s books about catch people doing something right, has become a bit hackneyed, but it’s true.  It’s especially true when someone has an obvious expectation that they will be praised or that their efforts will be appreciated.  How sad when the goody is taken out of good work, for the sake of acting superior, to keep someone from getting a big ego, or for any other reason.

Anyone will notice gigantic achievements, but it takes someone special to recognize the small achievements that indicate attempts to grow, gain new skills, practice, or try to do something that is challenging. Encourage people to be proud of what they have done, even if you must guide toward improvement. The key is to leave the goody in what they have done right, while helping them make the rest of their work match that high quality.

Tomorrow, next week and habitually after that, look for small victories all around you and verbally applaud them. You’ll soon see even greater things to commend.

February 25th, 2010 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Life and Work, Supervision and Management | 12 comments


  1. Very good advice, Tina. It takes so little effort to smile and be impressed with something someone has done, I don’t know why more people don’t do it. It feels good to make someone else feel good!

    Comment by J.J. | February 26, 2010

  2. You must have heard about my boss. I have seen people, whose small victories were put down as you describe, turn away with the most dismal look on their faces. It wouldn’t have cost my boss anything to have just once let them win or just once let them feel like they did something right. The ironic thing is that he thinks he’s motivating people, but all he does is destroy any desire to do well or to let him know about anything, because he’ll take the good out of it. I wish I had the courage to send this to him!

    Comment by Raider1 | February 26, 2010

  3. You are always an inspiration to me! I looked for ways to appreciate small victories today and I found three of those I might have not mentioned otherwise. I think one of the biggest problems for managers is realize that not everyone has the experience, knowledge or skills they do, or should have. When a new employee or an employee who has had problems does something right or is on the right track, it’s SO important to acknowledge it! But I sometimes need to be reminded myself, so I’m glad you did!

    Comment by P.A.H. | February 26, 2010

  4. Tina says: Thanks for the comments! JJ and P.A.H., I appreciate your thoughts (and your agreement with me!)

    Raider1, next time your boss says anything nice to someone without saying something bad at the same time, mention how much it meant to the person to feel he or she had done something right. Maybe he needs to have his efforts appreciated. 🙂

    Comment by TLR | February 26, 2010

  5. I opened up your site and saw the headline about applauding small victories. Then, over on your quotes section, which is always where I look next, was something like, “avoid victories over superior officers.” If it’s a small victory, is that OK? LLLLLLOL

    Comment by Mike | February 27, 2010

  6. Tina says: Mike, I’m always glad to brighen up your day.

    Comment by TLR | February 27, 2010

  7. I don’t know if you can respond to questions on this site or not. I have an employee who is having a lot of problems with work and probably should never have been hired, but he’s here and they absolutely aren’t going to dismiss him, no matter what. I’ve documented everything and I’ve been told it’s my job to get him up to speed. Also, he isn’t a really bad person, but he is becoming disliked because everyone knows he creates more work for them.

    I would like to compliment him on his occasional flashes of good work, but usually those few things are in the middle of a bunch of wrong things. So, really I’m sure he feels like my compliment is just a token to sell all the things I’m saying next.

    How can I commend a little and correct a lot at the same time? If you or maybe some of your other readers could respond, I would appreciate it. I feel like all I do is correct him! Sincerely, Tired of Being The Wicked Witch.

    Comment by Polly Wolly | February 28, 2010

  8. Tina says:Thank you for your question Polly! I’ll respond personally later, but would like to hear what some readers say as well.

    So………does anyone reading this have any ideas to share? Maybe a similar experience that worked out well or not? Some general guidelines? Some suggestions? Sympathy? 🙂

    Comment by TLR | February 28, 2010

  9. I guess I’m going to be the first to jump in with a response for “Polly”. I would say not to worry so much about it and compliment the good things when they’re good and politely correct the bad things when that is needed. If they’re at the same time you could say that even though there were a lot of problems with something he did, there was two or three good things that let you see he was really trying to improve. If he isn’t trying to improve I’d say maybe you’re babying him too much and he needs to be told that one or two good things now and then aren’t enough.

    Some supervisors are so worried they’ll bruise someone’s feelings that they never really make an employee feel he or she has to do better. I picked up on that a little from what you said. Don’t give up on documenting though, because things can change with the opinion of management too.

    Comment by Mike | March 1, 2010

  10. My suggestion to Polly is to have a conversation with the employee about his work and tell him how he is doing with his improvement program. Then, tell him that he has probably noticed that you recognize his good work but you also point out any problems and give ideas for fixing it, and that’s what you’ll keep doing, with the goal of having him have more and more good things to mention and less problems. I’d have to know the whole story to know what more to do than that, but that could be a good start. I hope this helps!

    Comment by W.N. | March 1, 2010

  11. I think you’re probably right that I worry too much, but I feel like he is trying his best and its not his fault we made mistake hiring him. I’m going to try talking to him about it as was suggested. Thanks to all.

    Comment by Polly Wolly | March 2, 2010

  12. Tina says: Polly, I wrote to you separately, but as you’ve noticed the other comments are somewhat similar to mine.

    I am a strong proponent of as much honesty as is appropriate. (Some would say I exceed that!) As both Mike and W.N. said, letting the employee know that you must critique but you also want to support his good work, is a way to courteously reinforce your supervisory role. It also implies that you credit the employee with the emotional maturity to understand that you have that dual role.

    Keep me informed about your progress!

    Comment by TLR | March 4, 2010

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