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18 Oct 2010

The Ability to Praise is a Function of Personality

One of the major characteristics of intuitive approaches for leadership is the dominance of intrinsic rewards over extrinsic ones. The demarcation between the two is most clear in studies of the effect of praise over money from immediate managers. A November 2009 article from McKinsey Quarterly, Motivating people – Getting beyond money, is but one example.

In addition to praise from an immediate manager, the article sited attention from leaders and opportunities to lead as two other nonfinancial rewards valued above compensation. However, the transition to nonfinancial rewards is difficult for many managers. A major reason the article gave was that “nonfinancial ways to motivate people do, on the whole, require more time and commitment from senior managers.”

While this is true, an important aspect that is rarely examined is that the tendency to praise is a function of personality. In order to praise and interact effectively, people need to have some emotional awareness and sensitivity. Just as some cars are better than others, some praises are too.

For instance, a manager who is more easily drawn to statistics, reports, information and finances might not have the personality necessary to encourage him to seek out opportunities to praise and spend individual time with employees. Moreover, while some extroverts can excel at networking a room, they can fail miserably at nonfinancial rewards. It’s one thing to have polite, congenial conversations in public but quite another to have involved, developmental discussions with an employee one-on-one. This is why some great public speakers can’t teach and some teachers can’t speak publicly.

Until companies look for personalities and aptitudes conducive to using nonfinancial rewards, overreliance on compensation to motivate will continue.

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