I was raised professionally to use tough love, those tactics that seem harsh on the surface but are intended to help you improve. Fast forward a few years and I’ve come to appreciate a different style, one where you spend more time encouraging and less time hammering. I was reading a blurb on being a better boss and came across the following tip: Unusual bosses give undeserving compliments (http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/advisor/7-unusual-things-great-bosses-do.html ). Hmm. Do we do people a service or a disservice when we give them undeserving compliments?

My early role models were often hard on you day to day but gave glowing comments in your annual appraisal or when you left (and isn’t that ironic?). They did this believing it meant more when you received occasional praise. Or did it? In hindsight, I don’t think it’s the most effective strategy since it left me alternating daily between fearing for my job and hating my boss. After the occasional praise, I would glow for a while, at least until the next bout of tough love. Yes, I tried harder and, yes, it made me more independent. However, it missed teaching me a crucial lesson about building relationships – it’s hard to build a relationship with someone you fear, after all.

So, back to the item on Yahoo… what’s the point of giving supposedly undeserving compliments, are they of any use? This reminds me of my hairdresser, who always tells me I look marvelous. He then goes on to talk about how I obviously take care of myself by working out or eating well. I’ll bet you think he’s insincere, that he says this to all of his clients. You’re probably right but I walk out of his salon feeling like a million bucks. This halo lasts for days and inspires me to live up to his words by working out or staying away from junk food. So, did I look marvelous? Nah. But did it inspire me to be better? Absolutely.

When we give undeserving compliments, are we encouraging the wrong behavior? Do we give people the wrong impression that they are good just as they are? I’m willing to take that risk because I think it’s more likely that the recipient stands up just a bit taller and works harder at living up to your compliment.


Color Me Undeserving
Drawn by ImageThink during a team meeting. Thank you, Heather!

Giving Thanks

Today is our official day of giving thanks in the US. At a recent team meeting, I asked the attendees to write down who and what they are thankful for. I’ve just finished reading their notes and am warmed by their graciousness. They thanked their families and teammates. They appreciated not only specifics but also the support and patience from others. I think they are more connected to each other for having written these things.

Do you give thanks every day? I don’t mean the kind of thanks where you thank your god; I mean the kind where you express your gratitude to those in your life. This ranges from those to whom you are closest, like your father or spouse, to those whom you will never meet again, like someone who holds the door open for you.

There is plenty in life to discourage or frustrate us. That woman in line ahead of you who took the last chocolate croissant? Check. That driver who cut in front of you? Check. Your kid, who crashed the car again? Check. Check. I’m sure your list goes on, just as mine does. Sure, life could be better, but there is a difference between hoping for better and being bitter about not having it be better right now, correct? I’m not sure what the difference is except gratitude. Giving thanks not only helps the recipient but it also soothes the sting inside of ourselves from other disappointments. It redirects our attention to what we have, to what works. It reminds us that these things, too, are those that we might have done without.

Here is what I am grateful for this Thanksgiving:

  • My husband, who is ever giving.
  • Our sons, who make me laugh.
  • My parents, who raised me with a solid work ethic.
  • My father, who teaches me joy.
  • My brother and sister, who are always accepting, no matter how long since my last call.
  • My husband’s family, who are the best in-laws anywhere.
  • My friends, who don’t put up with my antics and yet still make me feel loved.
  • My team, who never fail to make me proud.
  • My classmates, who humble me with their friendship.
  • My friend Josh, for his service.
  • Our dogs, who learn so quickly, especially when there is a reward at hand.
  • Our annual trip to the Big Island, which feels more and more like home each time we visit.
  • My career, which is both a reflection of my achievements and an opportunity to do more.
  • My health, for teaching me that I have limits and reminding me of how much I can still do. And isn’t that the moral? Yes, we have limits, but life is sweeter when we are grateful for all the things that go our way.


Our girls – who are perfect for snuggling with on a breezy Thanksgiving day. Except when they fiercely chase the squirrels in our back yard. 🙂