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(c) Jason Barnhart

Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.

Treat Them Like Children: Praise Progress

So last time was the first thing I noticed about how to help people move forward by reflecting on how we help our children to move forward. You can read about it here.

Here’s the second thing I noticed: we praise progress. When my kids are learning some new skill or they are learning some new activity I don’t wait until they have mastered it before I praise them.

Imagine if you didn’t praise your child until they learnt to speak in grammatically correct sentences. Or even imagine if you didn’t praise a child until they spoke a new word perfectly right. “No. Wrong. Not ‘og’. ‘Dog’.” It’s crazy.

Or imagine you didn’t praise a child until they completely coloured inside the lines.

We don’t wait until perfection before we praise.

We don’t even wait until competence to praise.

We praise progress. We look for even subtle displays of progress, often imperceptible to all but the most ardent observer. And when we see a sign of progress, not matter how small, we praise them for it. “You’re getting much better at that.” “I can see that’s getting much easier.” “Great work on putting your shoes on all by yourself! That is such a grown up thing to do. Let me help you get them on the right feet.”

And it doesn’t just happen. You need to be actively looking for it. Normally we only notice big strides or big changes. But those big changes are often made up of hundreds of small, gradual improvements. The trick is to be aware and actively looking for progress, which then makes it easier to spot.

And just to make this blog more learned and cultured, here’s a quote from Plato I just stumbled across in a book on graphic design:

Never discourage anyone […] who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.

Don’t wait for perfection. Don’t even wait for competence.

Praise progress.