Even the most inexperienced leader understands the power of praise and the impact that it can have on individuals and the team as a whole. Praise is one of the most powerful training and motiviational tools leaders have! When a team makes great gains or accomplishes a desired outcome, praise from their leader is often one of the most important and desired rewards. But have you ever considered offering reward in the form of praise when a project has failed?
Praise in it's truest form is about people. No one looks at a beautiful building and declares to the building how marvelous it is. People respect and praise the designer, the foresight of the visionary, the brilliant engineering, the manpower, all the HUMAN creativity and work that went into the project. Projects and ventures in the business sector are no different. When a leader offers praise for a success, they are naturally praising the people, the creativity, the work and dedication of the people on the team. So why should praise be withheld simply because the outcome was less than positive? Didn't the same people, the same dedication, the same creativity go into the project? (If not, then you were likely not at the helm, and that's a different blog post.) Just because the IDEA or PROPOSAL failed doesn't mean the PEOPLE on the TEAM failed. Naturally, every project needs review for weaknesses and where the failure may have occurred, but there are very important reasons, even during a debrief, to build the reward of praise into the analysis of the outcome.
First and foremost, praise builds trust and encourages more innovative and creative thinking. If team members or individuals feel that they are being criticized as people because their ideas or initiatives failed, they will likely not venture out in the future. The success of a future project, not to mention the re-launch of a failed initiave once it has been revised, may depend entirely on the creative thinking of team members who are willing to take risks and think out of the box. Praising the INITIATIVE and CREATIVITY of a project, even though it failed to produce the desired outcome, encourages more innovative and creative thinking for future projects.
Praise for risk-taking can also boost collaboration and increase teamwork. If an individual is singled out for having an idea that is out of the box or that may not have produced the stellar results projected, it will cause other team members to be wary of collaborating with them in the future. Many times, the best ideas are formulated from an amalgamation of creative thinking and varied viewpoints in order to gel and be successful. By praising the creative risk-taker, leaders lay the groundwork for other team members to come alongside them in the future, and eventually, a winning formula is produced by the team.
Rewarding risk-taking through praise lays the foundation for future projects. Constructive criticizm and thorough analysis are critical in the deconstruction of a failed project or venture, but praising the human element, the initiative, the creativity, the vision of the people involved is setting the stage for the next success. Great leaders understand that praise and reward does not necessarily need to be reserved for success only. Great leaders understand that sometimes praising the creativity of a past failure is laying the groundwork for the next successful outcome.