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Nov 30, 2006

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Give genuine appraisals

The Fox and the Crow, Aesop's fables

How important is a pat on the back? We have a tendency to take
people for granted and assume that the people close to us will
always be with us, “till death do us part.” Without nourishment,
even the most everlasting of flowers will wilt. There is nothing
like a compliment, praise and thanks to make other people feel
valued and appreciated. As a CEO or manager, it is critical to
manage this aspect of the boss-staff relationship, give credit
when credit is due, and be sincere in the compliments and
appraisals. People are not stupid and the moment your praises
sound rehearsed or forced, they get more hurt and disillusioned
and are less motivated to work.

Story:

The Fox and the Crow

The Fox and the Crow

(Illus by Arthur Rackham)

One bright morning as the Fox was following his sharp nose
through the wood in search of a bite to eat, he saw a Crow on
the limb of a tree overhead. This was by no means the first
Crow the Fox had ever seen. What caught his attention this
time and made him stop for a second look, was that the lucky
Crow held a bit of cheese in her beak.

“No need to search any farther,” thought sly Master Fox.
“Here is a dainty bite for my breakfast.”

Up he trotted to the foot of the tree in which the Crow was
sitting, and looking up admiringly, he cried, “Good-morning,
beautiful creature!”

The Crow, her head cocked on one side, watched the Fox
suspiciously. But she kept her beak tightly closed on the
cheese and did not return his greeting.

“What a charming creature she is!” said the Fox. “How her
feathers shine! What a beautiful form and what splendid
wings! Such a wonderful Bird should have a very lovely
voice, since everything else about her is so perfect. Could
she sing just one song, I know I should hail her Queen of Birds.”

Listening to these flattering words, the Crow forgot all her
suspicion, and also her breakfast. She wanted very much to be
called Queen of Birds.

So she opened her beak wide to utter her loudest caw, and
down fell the cheese straight into the Fox's open mouth.

“Thank you,” said Master Fox sweetly, as he walked off.
“Though it is cracked, you have a voice sure enough. But
where are your wits?”

Moral:

Do not trust flatterers.
He who listens to flattery is not wise, for it has no good purpose.

Kidding me:

Never talk with your mouth full; you never know what you
may drop out of it. More so if you have false teeth.

Quotable Quotes:

“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking
the truth, nothing easier than flattery.”
... Fyodor Dostoevsky

“A man must not always tell all, for that were
folly; but what a man says should be what he
thinks.” ... Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

“Congratulations offer more potential than
cash.” ... Kenneth Blanchard

“It is essential to condemn what must be
condemned, but swiftly and firmly. On the
other hand, one should praise at length what
still deserves to be praised.” ... Albert Camus

“People ask you for criticism but they only
want praise.” ... W. Somerset Maugham

“Leadership, above all, consists of telling the
truth, unpalatable though it may be.”
... Alfred Robens

[browse collection of quotes and quotations]

Lessons in life:

Are you the Crow lot? Learn to distinguish between genuine
compliments and plain flattery, or insincere praises. Or are
you the Fox lot? Learn that you can actually derive benefits
by offering false praises especially to the gullible ones. Many
people who read this fable pity the Crow, and teach their
children to neither flatter nor succumb to flattery. I am not
sure that being outright candid is absolutely right. While
excessive flattery is not encouraged, a little flattery does
help to bridge relationship gaps. Perhaps a better approach
is to groom a kid to recognise situations where flattery is
appropriate. Starting off your conversations with a statement
like “You look gorgeous” is surely better than starting with
“You forgot to put on your makeup today”. I find that mild
flattery does move things along more often than not. Having
said that, I do not advocate using flattery to trick people into
giving you undue advantages. Hence, while I am not against
flattery per se, I would not take after the Fox's way. In a
managerial capacity, I would also not use flattery to gain
my staff's trust. In fact, I believe good managers should be
genuinely sincere in their appraisals and communications with
the staff. Praise them when they put in the extra efforts and
overtime work. Recognize their out-of-office achievements
too. Let them know that you are proud of their involvement
in charity services and community projects. If they are taking
part in any sort of competition, show your support by being
present at the events. Most people adore attention, and a word
of appreciation from the boss will surely go a long way in
motivating them to put their hearts and souls into their work.
Do not forget the workers at the lowest rung. If the CEO of a
big company bothers to shake hands with the delivery clerk,
office boy, or cleaner, not only would it make their day, they
would be talking about it for days. Word will spread and
overnight, the CEO will become the most respected celebrity
in the company.

Related Articles:

Incentives give the extra push to succeed
Value every team member
Dreams, Goals, and Motivation
Boss's pet and Favoritism

Books worth reading:

Run out of nice words to say to your employee? Are you
afraid that your well-intended words might be misinterpreted
by them? Here is a book by James E. Neal, Effective Phrases
For Performance Appraisals: A Guide to Successful Evaluations
containing 2000 professionally written phrases which managers
can use to praise the employees' good performance.

If you need more information and tools to make your
company's appraisal process work better for everyone, try
this book by Amy Delpo, The Performance Appraisal Handbook:
Legal & Practical Rules For Managers. You would receive all
the useful tips on writing performance review, motivating staff,
increasing employee morale, and laying the groundwork to safely
fire poor performers who fail to improve.

© Business Fables and Management Lessons

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A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVES

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