Great Team Leaders Should Outlaw Saying Good Job


Most every one of us has experienced it at some point before.

We have all seen it happen to others on countless occasions.

It transcends every sport, gender, and situation.

Somebody does something worthy of praise. Striding off the field of battle and looking for validation from their team, awaiting accolades from a manager or coach, they welcome the obligatory pat on the back (or lower), and then they often unfortunately hear the most deflating phrase in the history of sport, education, and business…

They hear: “Good Job!”

And in the midst of the performer’s proud moment, that cold, lazy, clichéd “good job!” comment thuds clumsily against their ears and drops to the floor, never to be internalized or appreciated as a sincere or truly thoughtful appraisal of their efforts.

The opportunity to contribute to a moment that they might secretly treasure and recall for decades passes, and the chance to encourage any similar future success is lost. Instead of providing tribute to a specific behavior – something that would doubtless instill their desire to repeat in order to enjoy similar praise – the inexperienced leader or teammate offers this lazy comment, often ignorant of the missed opportunity.

Great teammates, and Great leaders, in any field recognize what their more inexperienced counterparts may not – the more specific your praise, the more likely the person is to work hard to repeat that behavior!

A basketball coach may not learn this for years. The air of any athletic arena is always filled with “good jobs” by well-meaning peers, parents, and other players. But somehow, over time, experience will offer enough examples that those looking close enough will see how specific praise motivates an athlete to do it again – so he can be recognized for his efforts and hear it again.

And not long after that lesson is learned will the same coach recognize how powerful specific praise is – because instead of motivating one athlete, a coach’s specific praise will inspire every teammate within earshot that THAT behavior is rewarded.

THAT behavior is exactly what we’re looking for in our program!

The job of a great leader is to be as specific as possible in defining what THAT is. And the beauty is that specific praise isn’t only a powerful tool for athletics. In business, a sales manager’s job is to inspire more sales.

Instead of greeting Bob with a handshake and a “good job!” at the next sales meeting for taking over first place for most units sold that week, he can choose tosay something much more impactful.

The Great Sales Manager might say: “Congratulations on taking over our #1 sales spot this week, Bob!  That extra time you spent building product knowledge and practicing handling objections has helped your close rate increase 30%!” While Bob is reminded of the process actions that helped result in his success, it won’t be only Bob who benefits from that accolade.

Bob’s teammates and coworkers want to be recognized for their achievement as well – and there’s a very good chance they may also repeat what he did in hopes of getting the praise and recognition he enjoyed. We all want recognition.

We all want to be praised.

But if you don’t tell the person WHAT they did that was praiseworthy, how will they know what to do the next time they want that same attention? It is your job as a great leader to define what THAT might be. And just as you want to add quality practices that will inspire more productivity and morale, you also will want to remove all practices that diminish performance or contribute to vagueness and miscommunication.

As a great leader, you should outlaw all “good jobs” in your organization.

Have a funeral where you bury the phrase in a shoebox, and then demand that EVERY congratulatory remark and encouraging recognition of effort is specific.  Great communication is taught, and can be introduced to your team culture through fun and impactful activities.

What is defined and specific is repeatable – and THAT is what helps your organization continue to improve…