I once had a team member who was struggling in a particular area, so I was on the lookout for a small-scale success where I could compliment him on a job well done. I hoped that catching him “doing something right” would build a foundation for future success.
One day during a team meeting, he surprised and impressed me with some relevant and pointed questions. It was exactly the type of active engagement and critical thinking I value in my team members. A small-scale success had presented itself.
After the meeting, I knew I wanted to say something to my team member to thank him for the discussion points he’d brought up. And then, I’m embarrassed to say, my mind took over and talked me into circles about whether this was a good idea. I started wondering whether praising good behavior was too much like praising a pet. And whether encouraging a particular behavior was being too manipulative. And whether an “attaboy” would even be received well.
I completely failed. I wanted to communicate appreciation in the workplace, but I overthought the situation way too much and let too much time pass. I let the fear of not communicating right prevent me from communicating at all. I tried to make it perfect and as a result did nothing.
In retrospect, I could have said something as simple as, “Thanks for the questions you brought up in the meeting. I think that led to a fruitful discussion.” My message didn’t have to be grandiose. A simple, sincere ‘thank you’ is better than a never-delivered one.