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If you want to change the culture of the organization then one of the best ways to do it is to praise the behaviors you want to see. If you want your people to be more adventurous, more entrepreneurial and more innovative then make a point of singling out for recognition those people who are acting like that, says Paul Sloane.

If you want to change the culture of the organization then one of the best ways to do it is to praise the behaviors you want to see. If you want your people to be more adventurous, more entrepreneurial and more innovative then make a point of singling out for recognition those people who are acting like that. Catch someone doing something good and make a fuss of them.

Say you have a culture which is risk averse, where people are reluctant to try new things for fear of failure. Find someone who tried something that did not work and then call them out at an all hands meeting:

“John tried an experiment. Unfortunately, it did not work. But you know what? Trying things is exactly what we need around here. I want to say well done to John for having the guts to push this prototype. We have learned a valuable lesson. If we are going to be innovative, we must try more things and be ready to cope with some inevitable setbacks along the way. So let’s have a big round of applause and hear it for John!”

This is much more powerful than praising those whose initiatives succeeded – though you should certainly do that too.  By praising someone for failing you are sending a strong message that countervails the current culture.

At your next department meeting see if you can find someone to praise for:

  • Coming up with some great ideas.
  • Trying something new.
  • Challenging the conventional way of thinking.
  • Bringing an external idea into the company.
  • Collaborating with a different department or organisation.
  • Taking a risk.
  • Making something happen.

Praise is one of the most powerful weapons in the leader’s armor. It should be used often.

Paul Sloane is the head of the BQF Innovation Unit. His website is http://www.destination-innovation.com/. His new book, The Innovative Leader, is published by Kogan Page.

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