Lean Quote: Praise the Behavior Not the Person

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

“Only praise behavior that you want to be repeated. Never use false praise.” — Coach Dean Smith

All of us like to receive a pat on the back…

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3 Responses to Lean Quote: Praise the Behavior Not the Person

  1. R Ward November 1, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    “Praise the behavior not the person” sounds like advice that is taking employee relationships in the wrong direction, This statement and the adjacent one “only the behavior that you want” are manipulative, disrespects the rights of individuals to have and express options and limits creative thought. That isn’t what Lean promotes.

    Individuals do the thinking, Leaders build consensus and Groups follow. Praise the sources of the concept especially when the concept proves to be viable. That praise encourages desirable behavior and if sincere is not manipulative.

    I wouldn’t work in an environment where a leader exhibited the thinking conveyed by these two quotes.

  2. suresh November 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm #


  3. Tim McMahon November 10, 2011 at 8:52 am #

    Thanks Suresh.

    R. Ward obviously you did not read my post. Lean is about respect for people. This post was about giving feedback. Feedback is not about insulting someone’s behavior; it’s about telling him or her how to be better. For example, you would never say to a child, “You are a mistake.” Instead you would say, “You made a mistake.”

    Identify the negative behavior, explain how it hurts the company, and provide a concrete description of your desired behavior. Make your praise specific to the behavior. Avoid making any generalities about the praise you are giving. Before you praise someone, isolate the behavior that you are praising them for and praise that behavior along with the person. This will make the praise much more valuable to them and it will reinforce that specific behavior.

    I never mention anything about manipulating anyone. That is your interpretation.