Aug 19

In Praise of Praise

Almost every Saturday, I make a business deposit at Macatawa Bank. The 9 a.m. to noon hours are a convenience to me but I know how they carve up an otherwise perfectly good weekend day for tellers.

A couple of years ago, I thanked one of the tellers for giving up part of her Saturday so I could do my banking. She was self-effacing – no, just doing my job, it’s only a few hours, it’s really no big deal.

It’s now become part of my Saturday routine: a deposit, a withdrawal for walking-around money and a thanks to the Cascade team. And it’s been noticed – one of my favorite tellers once said she has followed suit and now makes a point of thanking those who serve her during her weekend errands.

Who doesn’t like praise? It makes us feel good to have our efforts acknowledged and applauded, particularly if you are a service provider. Studies and blogs affirm the positive benefits of compliments, from enhancing performance and boosting mood to improving persistence and sparking creativity.

An attorney friend of mine once said service providers want two things: to have our counsel followed and to be paid on time – and if he could only get one of those, it would be to paid on time.

After more than two decades of working in public relations, I would add a third: to have good work or good effort recognized.


All too often, we let the sharp words of a short temper or hopeless curmudgeon take root and roil. We turn these poisonous darts over and over in our minds, wondering why they came our way and occasionally letting them fester.

Why not remember and revel in kind words or thoughtful notes instead? I have three on my desk right now, and even glancing at them during a hectic day can lift my spirits.

Recognizing that compliments don’t seem to stick as much as complaints, I started a praise file a few years ago. We add to this Word document every time a client, journalist or another service provider says something nice about a team member who goes above and beyond.

Some are funny, like this one from last week: It eases my mind to have you on the case – it might prevent them from doing anything crazy. But that’s 90 percent of your job, isn’t it?

Some are heartfelt: I surely did not ever expect to be in this situation. Who would? But having you with me is making this rough journey a much safer one.

Some are head-turning: You’re the gold standard.

And some cut right to the chase: Hiring Sabo PR was the best money we have spent in a long time.

We start each Monday team meeting by sharing new additions to the praise file – and rarely a week goes by when we don’t have something to celebrate.

Over the years, I’ve tried to make it a point to applaud good work and great service. I’ll write Facebook reviews, add an extra tip at a restaurant or send a handwritten note when paying a bill. I even took an online survey for Dick’s Sporting Goods to praise two extremely helpful associates who helped me purchase fishing tackle for my brother.

As public discourse becomes measurably less civil, it strikes me we could all do with a little more kindness – and a lot less grousing. I challenge everyone who’s read this far to deliver one compliment every day this week – and then let me know what happened.


8 thoughts on “In Praise of Praise”

  1. Mindy says:

    This is great, Mary Ann. Similar to your praise file, I have a “kudos” folder in Outlook where I store emails containing praise, and I consult them occasionally if I feel like I could use a little positivity in my day/week. Challenge accepted. 🙂

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Thanks, Mindy — our list is now up to 25 pages, which was delightful to see! Thanks for taking the challenge — feel free to share your results here or privately, whichever you prefer.

  2. Sue walton says:

    I accept your challenge.

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Thanks, Sue — will look forward to your update! Feel free to share it here, if you are so inclined.

  3. Jodi Sevigny says:

    Challenge accepted. Thanks for the kind words.

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Jodi, my pleasure — it probably gives me MORE pleasure to thank the team than they probably get from hearing it. Is has the benefit of being both true and sincere. Thanks for taking the challenge — let us know how well you do!

  4. Lee Schoenherr says:

    Mary Ann,

    I am sure I must have thanked you previously but just in case ———- You did a wonderful job in orchestrating the PR at the time of the company gift to the employees. The positive response was far greater than ever expected and it is still trickling in after all these months. Thank you.

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Lee, you did — and so did your team and your board, many times over. It was such a fun and rewarding project to be a part of! Thank you for the thank-you again!

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