How To Give A Meaningful Compliment

Giving Praise, What Great Leaders Have In Common

We are all in a position to give and receive compliments at some point, both in our personal and professional lives. Some of us are better at it than others. Sometimes our skill varies based on the setting; sometimes it varies based on our relationship with the individual that is deserving the compliment.

Why do we let these varying factors impact our ability to give complements? Maybe it’s because we are concerned about how we will be perceived. Maybe it’s because we are shy. Maybe it’s because we are jealous. There are lots of reasons, and most are centered on how we (the “giver”) feel, not on the accomplishment that deserves recognition.

If you want to improve your ability to give compliments centered on the “receiver’s” accomplishment, take a lesson from those who do it well-Great Leaders. They have one very important trait in common. When they give out a compliment…

It’s not about the reaction they get, it’s about the reaction they have already gotten. 

You see, great leaders live and breathe their vision. They communicate where they want to take their employees, their teams, and their organizations. They create paths forward. They enlist others to support them. And they realize that success is based on how others react to these efforts.

As a result, when people act in any way that supports the leader’s goal, the leader is so grateful that the act of giving praise is genuinely to thank someone for listening, believing and participating in the success of the organization.

That genuine gratitude motivates, it precipitates future acts, it’s contagious, it builds confidence and it makes the leader’s vision real.

When I speak with leaders that tell me it’s hard for them to give compliments, I immediately ask about their vision.  Ten times out of 10, they don’t have one, not one that they have clearly defined and embraced. Fix that first, and then you will be able to compliment in a way that is meaningful to the giver, the receiver and the business!

Here’s How To Give A Meaningful Compliment

Formalize Your Goals

No matter what your role, it’s important to define where you want to go, what the future looks like, and what is needed to achieve it. (It is crucial that you write it down.)

Communicate Your Goals

Share what it is you want to accomplish with the people around you. People can’t support you if they are not aware of what you are trying to do. (Be sure to show why your goals are important and the benefits that accomplishing them will bring.)

Live And Breathe Your Goals

Make sure your own actions are aligned with your goals. Continue to communicate with those around you on an ongoing basis and share your progress…as well as the progress of others.

Notice The Actions That Take Place Around You

Take note of actions that support your goals, or work against them. Giving praise to those in support (explaining the positive impact) and providing feedback on those actions that are not properly aligned (explaining the negative impact). The benefit of this process is not only to give a meaningful compliment, but also to ensure meaningful compliments in the future by correcting/realigning actions that work against your success.

Rejoice In Success

Success is a natural result of this collaborative process, enjoy it with those who helped you.

Great leaders give praise that means something, without meaning to do it. It becomes natural to them, and with a little bit of focus and commitment, it can become natural and effective for you, too.



Written by Lisa Woods, President Lisa Woods Consulting & Founder of

Lisa is a dynamic business leader & author located in Western New York with more than 20 years experience leading, managing and driving growth in the corporate world. Today she partners with business leaders to understand their vision, identify internal and external roadblocks, define a practical strategic path forward and guide a successful transformation. This work includes strategy definition & goal setting, organizational design, facilitating team buy-in, establishing visual metrics, internal and external research studies, business feasibility assessments, and investor insight into organizational strength, weakness & strategic opportunity. She helps business leaders drive growth & increase profits.

Strategic Consulting ǀ Management Consulting: Strategy Realized

      Contact Lisa

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