Praise Verses Criticize

Early in my career, I was given some solid advice

Praise publicly, criticize privately

I remember two of my early mentors, Dick Prince and Routon Mathis, discussing this topic in a meeting.  Of course this is an old notion, but at the time I had no idea.  They definitely dropped some knowledge on me.

This simple two-fold advice is something that I have done my best to do in life.  Not only in business, but in all aspects of life.  So it drives me crazy when I see someone publicly criticize someone in a group of people.  Unfortunately I saw this happen late last week.

I witnessed someone being cut down by a superior in public.  Although I didn’t disagree with the comments being made, I did have a problem with how it was delivered.  The superior did this in front of a mixed audience and was trying to make an example out of this person.  It wasn’t as bad as Kevin Spacey in Horrible Bosses, but it was pretty close.

The experience made me think about those who have truly motivated me in my life.  My old youth pastors, managers, and executives.  They all had a common thread: Praise publicly, criticize privately.  Each of them knew that was a key component in communication and motivation.  They were able to coach me up and make me a better person.  I’m forever in their debt for that.

I then thought about the person who always made a point to make a public scene anytime I made a mistake.  She always made sure to have an audience around when it was time to “teach me a lesson.”  This particular person was able to motivate me…motivate me to get away from them.

If you criticize someone in front of a group, you are only humiliating them.  Yes, they may change their behavior, but they are doing it out of fear and intimidation.  If you do it privately, you have an opportunity to create personal dialogue which can lead to a great coaching opportunity and give someone the opportunity to grow and learn.

If you praise someone in a one-on-one setting you are only boosting their ego.  Don’t get me wrong, giving any praise is better than none at all.  If you do it publicly, you not only boost someone’s self-confidence, you also remind others of what you perceive to be a quality and set a standard of behavior.

If you take anything away from this, remember:

  • The next time you want to give stern advice to someone, pull them aside privately.
  • The next time you want to pat someone on the back for a good job, do it in front of a crowd.

About Jeremy M. Price
For twelve years, I had the pleasure of working in community banking. Starting in customer service, I worked my way up to a senior level marketing and human resources director. It was great leading teams that improved strategic initiatives including, but not limited to brand awareness, digital communication, employee development and product development. This experience has now led to an exciting role with CRS Data. As the Product Marketing Analyst, I am currently reviewing the company's banker suite product. This product is able to help community banks reach their fullest potential in real estate lending. I am extremely fortunate to share time with my son while enjoying life in East Tennessee. The two of us enjoy the views of the Smokey Mountains, eating good food and having fun. During my free time, I enjoy running races, traveling and listening to great live music.

3 Responses to Praise Verses Criticize

  1. jeremypfloyd says:

    Great leaders seek to maximize the potential of those around them. Even “critiquing” their team has a different desired result than criticism. Good leaders have humility and courage. What you described here is filled with weakness and fear, and thus it looks more like dictatorship than leadership.

    Glad you’re writing on the topic. I’ve been writing about leadership quite a bit lately. We’ll have to keep the conversation going.

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Jeremy. You are always on target when it comes to leadership, so I am happy to see that we are on the same page.

    We will certainly continue this conversation.

  3. Pingback: Sales Training = Knowledge + Courage « JuMP Around

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