“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  Mark Twain

 My favorite boss knew the power of a compliment.  One day he was walking by my office. He zoomed passed the door because he was always in a hurry, stopped abruptly, turned around and popped into my office. He said “Good Morning, Julie!  You did a great job on the newsletter article concerning IRA’s.  That was great stuff on the power of compound interest and how compound interest grows over time. Keep up the excellent work; our clients need that kind of information. Compound interest is one of the most powerful tools our clients have and you did a great job showing them that power over a lifetime. Thanks for the article.”

Then he smiled and was gone. Poof! It was like a drive-by compliment. He just stops, gives you a compliment and then he is gone.

When I was promoted to management, I went to him and asked him how he gives such effective compliments.  He said, “I use the power of five S’s.” I asked what they were and he asked me to sit, take out a yellow pad and write down the recipe. 

Five S’s Recipe:

  • Short
  • Sweet
  • Soon
  • Sincere
  • Specific

He went on further to say, “The compliments need to be short, not too long. They need to be nice—that is the sweet part. They need to be soon, because compliments go bad with age. They need to be specific.  I will fire a manager who just writes on the annual evaluation form ‘good job.’ The compliment and reinforcement needs to be specific: reward the behavior you want and continue to recognize it. The more specific the compliment or reinforcement, the more power the compliment has. That leads to specific; if the compliment is specific then it will be more sincere.”

Since I had seen him use this technique hundreds of times, I had many examples of its effectiveness. By using the power of the five S’s that made him one of the best bosses, I had ever worked for in my entire life.


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