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Fill employees' buckets with recognition and praise

In their 2004 book How Full is Your Bucket?, authors Tom Rath and Don Clifton explain the theory of the dipper and the bucket:

Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it's empty, we feel awful. Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people's buckets – by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions – we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others' buckets – by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions – we diminish ourselves.

So we face a choice every moment of every day: we can fill one another's buckets, or we can dip from them. It's an important choice – one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health and happiness.

Simply by virtue of their position, leaders hold extraordinary power to fill or dip the invisible buckets of their staff. When leaders make conscious and deliberate decisions to recognize and praise their employees – not just thinking about it, mind you, but actually verbalizing these emotions – they create positive, productive and high-performing departments and organizations. And as you might expect, when managers or supervisors withhold information, or create (or sustain) unnecessary bureaucracy, or allow a negative or poisoned work environment to thrive, they build workplaces in which employees are demotivated and unproductive.

So leaders, focus on giving recognition and praise to your employees, frequently and liberally. Don't for a moment believe that you can overdo it; as long as the praise is specific and sincere, it can never be "too much"! When you infuse positive emotions into your team by filling buckets more frequently, you will benefit from greater productivity and employee engagement, less turnover, and improved client and customer feedback.

So what are you doing to fill more buckets? Or alternatively ... what examples have you seen of intentional or inadvertent bucket-dipping? Please share online at my blog at:

Sneak preview: Merge's column in next week's The Globe & Mail

Merge's next column in The Globe & Mail in the Leadership Lab section is scheduled to publish next week on June 10th. Tentatively titled "Hey Millennials, want respect? Here's how you earn it!", this article offers advice to millennials on how to earn greater respect amongst their boomer and Gen-Xer peers and managers. And as always, we'll send you a live link so that you can not only find out what others are saying about it, but also add your own comments right on The Globe's site.

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