Give me an S! - Blog Top Image

Give me an S!

Have you ever had one of those moments where someone you work with did something that really made your life easier or your day brighter? Did you tell them how they made things better for you?

Have you ever had one of those moments when an employee - even an employee who may not have been doing universally well in their role - did something really useful or really right? Did you praise them for that success?

If you didn’t tell them or praise them, why not? Because you didn’t think of it? Because you didn’t think it was important? Because you weren’t sure how to do it?


Okay, how about this one: Have you ever had one of those moments when you realize, a season too late, that you should have made more deposits into the bank of someone else’s confidence or emotional well-being, but at the time it didn’t seem important, or it seemed too hard, and now, that opportunity is gone?


Let’s face it. Giving feedback is tough. Even praise. It can feel awkward sometimes or inauthentic, or even unnatural to call out praise for someone else.


But just because it’s awkward doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it.


For those in leadership, coaching conversations that center around praise should be as natural in your conversation with your employees as coaching conversations pertaining to correction. And if we make a habit of giving the gift of feedback (praise or correction), we get better at it. Praise is a way of helping someone improve their game because they’ll know how to do more of the right things and more things right.

You’ve heard me write and teach for years on my fervent belief that feedback is a gift. It is! Any time you’re giving someone else feedback, you’re saying I care enough about Present-You so I’m investing time in thoughtful conversation to help Future-You be the best You they can be so Future-You can have the best possible days. “I think you’re awesome, and you can be even more awesome!”

When we’re giving this gift of feedback, the very best pieces of feedback meet these criteria:
  • Specific
  • Immediate
  • In some way actionable.

So let me share with you a model for praising someone else in-the-moment. This is a coaching model, specifically designed as a way to share positive feedback with someone in-the-moment, with a bias for immediate takeaways that produce long term effects to help that person continue to achieve great things.

Just remember this little acronym, SPRAT.

S - Specific – let’s get specific about what they did. Did they complete their work in record time? Did they hold a door open for someone who had their hands full? Did they delight an existing or new customer with their genuine smile or quick follow-up? Did they demonstrate the courage to speak up about a topic that needed to be surfaced? Say something! As close as you can to the moment itself, make a quick statement about their specific praise-worthy action.

P - Praise – actually praise their actions or their words. Praise is about them, so make an effort to not begin your praise sentence with “I”. Instead of “I like…”. or “I appreciate...” or “I value...” , try a phrase that’s all about them, such as “You set a new record with that speed” or “You really made that other person’s day” or “You demonstrated our core value of helpfulness in a really effective way.” Keep it positive, keep it focused, keep it about them.

R - Reflection – get them to reflect on their actions, how they felt about their actions, the causes and triggers for their actions as well as the impact of their actions to them and to those around them. You can do this by asking questions like – “What was on your mind at that moment?” or “What drove you to take that action?”. You can then help them reflect on the impact of their action with questions like “What did you notice about how your actions/words/steps impacted others at the moment?” or “What do you expect will happen next as a result of your action?”

A - And – wait for it…(okay, the A doesn’t really stand for anything, but it’s a reminder that reflections AND takeaways - which is the next part - go together like peanut butter and jelly or fish and chips or Romeo and Juliet)

T - Takeaways – especially if you’re in a coaching conversation with this person, invite them to articulate what they are taking away for themselves for future use. Help coach them into realizing the successes that come from behaviors like the one you’re praising. Ever seen the meme about ladders? It’s got a picture of a person standing on a pile of horizontal ladders, unable to reach the top of the wall. Praise can sometimes be a bit like that - if they don’t know what to do with it, how will they be able to use it? If in their reflection about the past they don’t also take away an application for the future, then the praise they just received might just be a one-time thing. So explore other possible situations where they might take similar praiseworthy action, and empower them to do so.


Taking even a minute or two, right there in the moment, to leverage this coaching model will help you not just celebrate or praise someone’s actions or results, but will help you help them continue to repeat those praiseworthy actions, thereby making better workdays for them, and for those around them.

Give it a try, let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear your stories!


If you’re still wondering why there’s a picture of a fish on this blog, that might mean you’re not familiar with the sprat. In the herring family, and similar to a sardine or an anchovy, the sprat is high in omega-3s which are good for the heart. You know what else is good for the heart? Sharing praise. 

Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Communication & Collaboration, Leadership & Influence

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

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