During the 2016 IAAF World Junior Championships in Poland, Jess Thornton from Australia carried the weight of her nation as she attempted to win the 400m final leading up to the Rio Olympic Games.
Yet, in the midst of these Olympic-level stakes, just as the competitors came to the line, she took a moment to respectfully acknowledge Salwa Nasar from Bahrain. Nasar had recently made the heart-wrenching decision to leave her native Nigeria, where poverty robs young women of talent and potential, for the opportunity to break-out and flourish in Bahrain. Her choice was a refusal to leave her potential unrealized and Thorton’s brief moment of praise reverberated around the world.
There is no situation that’s too big or too important to ignore an opportunity to shower praise on someone who deserves it.
Mark Twain famously confessed, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
While we don’t openly discuss it often, the truth is that everyone, and I mean everyone, cares about getting a compliment from time to time.
I’m not talking about the debate on “self esteem” or the social media obsession with attention-grabbing. I’m talking about an honest, thoughtful, deserved acknowledgement from one peer to another. It’s powerful and frankly it doesn’t happen nearly often enough.
Discussions on leadership often focus on strength, presence, and decisiveness, all important elements of effective leadership. But those are just the utilities of leadership. Genuine leadership that affects people deeply, that fills deep wells of trust, is demonstrated best in the act of generous praise. There is perhaps nothing more welcomed and inspiring to someone than an unexpected, thoughtful compliment.
Every day the people around us are doing things worthy of acknowledging in a positive way. And we rush right past them. We’re too busy to stop, take notice, and publicize something notable. We have too much on our plate and besides, it won’t really matter anyway, right? Wrong.
If anyone had too much on her mind to take the time to compliment another, and a competitor at that, it was Jess Thornton as she stepped to the line of a world-level competition. But she didn’t care about that. For 30 seconds she had the presence of mind to acknowledge something special and to have the confidence to know that it wouldn’t affect her own performance negatively.
I’d submit that no one will ever be in the wrong and will never negatively impact their own performance by genuinely praising another — even the competition. So don’t hold back. Praise generously and often.
The one you uplift with your expression will be touched deeply (whether they express it or not) and you’ll build the most important part of your character; charity.
Let there be no doubt, when you take a moment to acknowledge the good work and contribution of another, there’s a powerful impact that reverberates deeply.
It’s an impact thats far more important than whatever mundane task typically keeps you head-down and unaware of the good work happening in the next cubicle.