Two years ago, I was racing to a major motivational convention. The presenter was a world-famous speaker and there was a chance that I would be able to get backstage and actually meet this person. However, I found that my digital camera had just died on me… I wouldn’t be able to capture the moment!

I raced into a camera store and explained I needed to buy a camera on the spot for this meeting. As we were concluding the sale, the salesman said “You’ll need to go home and charge the batteries for 3 hours before you can use the camera.”

I was speechless! I pointed to the demo model in the display case and asked “Could I please swap the battery I am buying now, with the fully-charged battery in the demo model we were just using?” He thought about it for a moment and said yes. Problem solved! I was very happy, and asked if I could please speak to his manager.

You should have seen the look of fear in his eyes! He asked if everything was ok, and I reassured him that I simply wanted to pay him a compliment in front of his manager. He got the manager, and the manager asked the same question! I told the manager that this person had really gone above and beyond to help me solve my problem. The manager breathed a sigh of relief that I wasn’t angry, thanked me, and said “Wow… we never get anyone complimenting us.”

As I left the store that day, it saddened and upset me to think that most people are told what they do WRONG, but rarely what they do RIGHT. When a clerk is summoned to the customer service desk, it is usually to get yelled at. When an employee is summoned to their boss’s office, it is to discuss how they screwed up. How often do employees get called into your boss’s office and told “I just wanted to say what a FANTASTIC job you’ve done on this report/presentation/project”?
One of my clients had a staff member I interact with daily win as “Employee of the Year”, and yet they barely mentioned it to me in passing a month after the fact. But that same wonderful employee would be run up the flag pole if she made an error. One VP I know was quoted as saying “I’m not good at giving people compliments.” In describing the owner of a business I know, the staff said “If he says nothing, it means you did a good job. He rarely compliments people.”

Charles Schwab said “I have never seen a man who could do real work except under the stimulus of encouragement and enthusiasm and the approval of the people for whom he is working.”

Poor leaders only point out errors; they only catch people doing things wrong. Exceptional leaders catch people doing things right. My challenge to you is to tell people exactly what they did right, why it helped, and that you appreciate them. Your example can shift the culture of your entire organization, and you’ll be a better people-leader because of it.