As reported in Inc. magazine last week, children can achieve great success in life if you – as a parent – make a small change in how you praise them and talk about achievement. As I read this article, it occurred to me that the same strategy holds true for all people, not just children. An emerging and exciting body of research on the subject suggests several key things:
- Praising kids merely for their innate abilities, such as their intelligence, actually makes it less likely that they’ll grow up to enjoy learning and to excel.
- Praising kids instead for the strategies and processes they develop to solve problems – even when they don’t fully succeed – makes them more likely to try harder and ultimately achieve.
This means that the so-called experts who tell us to praise our kids endlessly (part of the “everyone gets a participation trophy” movement) are dead wrong. I talk about this in my best-selling book, If Not You, Who? Cracking the Code of Employee Disengagement.
Today, in many public school systems, everybody’s a winner on Field Day. Ribbons are awarded for first, second, and third place, and every student who did not “win” receives a ribbon even though they fell down in a pile of dirt while running the three-legged race or allowed their egg to shatter and spew yellow yolk into the green grass.
Personally, I’m glad the “everybody’s a winner” system didn’t exist when I was in elementary school. Why? Because that system would have disengaged me. I would have been less motivated to work hard. I would have wondered why the bar was set so low. I would have been less inclined to be creative or to take a risk. I would have felt like my efforts were being devalued.
BE AWESOME! The morale of the story? If you want your children, and your employees, to succeed, encourage them to brainstorm strategies and processes to solve problems, and then praise them for their efforts. The result? They will be more likely to try harder, innovate and be creative, which will increase both their success and your company’s success.