Stop Praising Me. Please.

One of the most important elements to being a successful anything — athlete, employee, individual, business leader, entrepreneur, philanthropist, is motivation.

We are not talking about Mr. Motivator here… although this form of “motivation” no doubt has it’s place, doing cross-fit, pushing out the last set in the gym, running the last lap, keeping going in the last few minutes, ultimately “tricking” the mind to overcome the pain and the struggle, true motivation is much deeper than this.

I will go deeper into motivation (intrinsic & extrinsic) another time, but for anyone serious about performance, either creating, helping, facilitating or delivering it, just go and pick up Daniel Pink’s book called “Drive” — right now:

For those who don’t like reading, RSA Animate have produced another brilliant animation to illustrate in 10 minutes the concept in a visual way…

The reason I bring it up, is simple. In the last few months, a number of athletes and professionals have spoken to me about their relationship with a mentor, a coach or a manager. They have talked about not wanting to carry on, as they can’t please the other person, they can’t achieve to the level expected of them and feel very down about it. Some of them want to give up.

One of the major contributory factors in these cases, has been praise. Too much of it. The individuals have been told, continually, that they are superstars, they are breaking boundaries, they are incredible. It is frighteningly dangerous to deliver this amount of praise when in a role of influence and responsibility over another, especially a youngster or someone vulnerable. If they trust you, they will likely believe you. And why wouldn’t they? “Someone is telling me that I am brilliant.”

However, what happens when they start to struggle? Do you still praise them? Are you still there for them? Are you helping them understand the struggle, and supporting them to find their own way out, to develop problem solving and resilience?

What happens if the young professional is under pressure, and all of a sudden, a series of events happen and they are in position to make a critical decision? Are they relying on you so much they can’t think for themselves, or don’t have the confidence to?

What happens when the young athlete changes coach, or team, or gets selected at a higher level? Are you there, on the pitch next to them, to hit the ball for them, or tell them what to do?

It is our duty as coaches, mentors, managers and leaders to be honest with those who look up to us. That is why we have been given the responsibility to lead others. It is abhorrently wrong to be dishonest with other people; to lead others down the wrong path, because it is an easier conversation or won’t result in an argument or a difficult discussion. Especially if they are a young person making their way, and are hugely susceptible to being influenced. Unless we, as coaches, mentors, managers and leaders care about our people, we will not get through to them or lead them effectively. But caring about someone, includes being honest with them. It, quite simply, is the right thing to do.

Stop telling people how good they are, if there are holes in their performance or their behaviour, or they are not up-to their own standards. Be honest. It is better for the team, it is better for the organisation, it is better for you and in the long run… it is better for them!

Don’t agree? Come start a conversation here.


About Stephen Moreton

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