• Recognizing and supporting the positive values demonstrated in other people’s actions

  • Fostering an environment that encourages GuideMarks and other healthy behaviors

  • Acknowledging, with specificity, the good work of others


This week’s GuideMark is Reinforce the Good. It was previously defined as:

Reinforce the Good: an intentional approach to recognizing and supporting the underlying positive principles demonstrated in other people’s actions.

Let’s get practical and talk about a few of the ways we can implement Reinforce the Good.

Be Specific. General compliments are nice, but are not altogether useful in encouraging people or helping them get better at their job. When you take the time to tell someone that they did well, be sure to tell them what they did well and why it is noteworthy. (See more about specificity here.)

Be Selective. You cannot compliment everything. None of us would get anything done if all we did was sit around patting each other and ourselves on the back all day. (We would not have jobs very long if we did!) As a practical matter, we need to be selective in pointing out the good work of others. Hopefully, a lot of the good that is being done by others is simply their job.

For example, assume that my kids are expected to make their bed before school in the morning. It is not necessary, or productive, for me to fawn all over them every day for making their bed. They should make their bed. Note: I did not say that I should never thank them for making their bed. Of course, I should, on occasion, thank them; however, rather than just giving them an “atta boy” for making their bed, a better compliment would be to point out and congratulate them for their consistency in making their bed -- and that compliment is based on a measure of performance over time.

Be Sincere. A false compliment is worse than no compliment at all. Do not congratulate someone for anything that is not worthy of celebration. In most cases, people see right through it and it undermines your credibility and it makes the “real” compliments less effective. Or worse. Someone may believe your insincere compliment and start doing more of the mediocre work that you just congratulated them on. Bottom line: do not give out false praise. Find something specific that is good, and praise it, but do not make it up.

No Sandwich. Are you familiar with the “sandwich” technique? The basic premise goes something like this: if you have some harsh criticism to deliver, start with a nice compliment, give the negative feedback, and then quickly follow the criticism with something nice. It’s a sandwich: happy, sad, happy.

In theory, I understand the idea behind the sandwich technique. I won’t say it should never be used; however, if the only time you deliver positive feedback is in the midst of a negative sandwich, then no one will ever hear your compliments. They will always be waiting for the meat of your feedback sandwich.

It is good to give positive feedback on its own. Let the compliment stand out. This will allow the person to really bask in the moment of their “job well done”.


Take time this week to Reinforce the Good you see around you.

Key Words and Phrases

Encourage a response; Support; Reward an action; Strengthen or increase; Instruct; Boost or shore up; Affirm and validate; Foster and sustain; Bolster or amplify; Emphasize or stress.

Opposite Terms

Ignore; Undermine; Weaken; Tear down.


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