Leadership on a Napkin

Lesson 5:
Praise in Public and Criticize in Private

If you want to make a powerful difference, strengthen and empower people in your interactions and communications, pay attention to the simple rule of:  “praise people in publicand criticize them in private. Unfortunately, I see many managers and leaders do the opposite: they criticize people in public and praise people in private. Sometimes, they don’t praise at all.

Leaders and managers often don’t seem to get the – positive and/or negative– impact of their behaviors and communications on people around them.

When you criticize people in public, especially in front of their peers, subordinates and friends, they typically feel embarrassed, disrespected and humiliated. They shut down and stop hearing what you are actually saying.

So, even if your criticism is valid, providing it in public defeats your purpose because in that setting people don’t listen.They don’t learn, correct or take ownership for their errors and screw-ups. In fact, the impact of criticizing people in public is often very negative; people feel beaten up and they come out wounded.

But, if you take people aside or have a one-on-one with them and in that private space you provide them with direct feedback, they’ll be much more inclined to listen, internalize and change their ways. And, they’ll be appreciative of your coaching and the way you did it.

On the other side – if people worked long and hard on a project, including sacrificing personal and family time (which is often the case in teams) and your praise is private, not public, they are likely to feel under-appreciated and under-valued.

Praise is a very powerful tool that we have an abundant access to, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

So, if you want to make a difference and strengthen and empower people around you – look for opportunities to praise them in public. It really makes a difference.