I believe in the generosity and power of a gracious compliment, sincerely given. Graciousness is almost a lost art, seeming to exist solely in the dialogs of old novels, and within our memories of past generations. We live at a fast pace, and usually we are too busy, insecure, or self-absorbed to consider graciousness a necessity in our personal interactions. I believe where graciousness exists without condescension, true leadership is modeled, and people are uplifted by example and flourish.
Several years ago, a friend of mine, a busy, professional, nurse/manager, decided to take on the responsibility of organizing a post-prom party for our high school class of graduating seniors. She steered a major community effort from the ground up, in addition to attending to her own job and family. I watched my friend work tirelessly through that year. She supported visions other than her own, and allowed individuals to follow through with their ideas without criticism, coercion, pressure, or guilt. She acknowledged every volunteer’s commitment and effort though genuine compliments and calm thanks. I marveled at the way she managed to keep up momentum and enthusiasm, and enabled diverse groups of busy people to team together. The final post-prom night was a huge success. Everyone celebrated, and my friend personally thanked again, all who were involved. She was, at the same time, content to watch others bask in the limelight she had created. Her management style was unique, and she facilitated the success of the venture through her generous, outgoing nature. She was personally secure in her own achievement, knowing she had made it all happen.
Generally people are stingy with real compliments. I’m not talking about those ingratiating compliments given for potential personal gain, or the false flattery inherent in catty rivalries; I’m referring to recognition and acknowledgement. While we nurture competition and leadership, we often later begrudge the excellence we find, and gradually tend to look for short-comings. Often we fail to acknowledge the efforts, skills, or talents of others with admiration because we are stalemated by the fear that we will diminish ourselves in some small way. Graciousness is then difficult to achieve. Perhaps in this competitive society we’re geared into thinking that recognizing the accomplishments of others reduces our own personal stature, knowledge, or authority. In fact as my friend, a true leader in her personal and professional life has demonstrated, the very opposite is true.
So, this I believe: Generosity lies at the heart of graciousness, and a sincere compliment, acknowledgement, or word of thanks can be a powerful tool in leadership. It has the power to advance happiness, civility, and productivity not only in our personal lives, but in our professional lives as well. No doubt the old saying, “you can catch more flies with honey” can be interpreted in different ways, but I think the real secret to the “honey” is the willingness to offer that sincere compliment, or word of thanks, with good will, and without reservation
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