Good job!  Nice work! Way to go! These are great to hear, but they don’t give clear direction to the person receiving the comments as to WHY their work was appreciated, nor how to keep up the momentum.

Here are some ideas on how to better give appreciation to colleagues – and how to ask for details when you receive positive feedback.

State What About the Actions ‘Worked’

Was it the warm tone with which your colleague addressed a key client?  Was it the initiative that they engaged in that made the project have a better outcome?

Perhaps it was the background research that someone did, that you didn’t appreciate until it was incorporated in the final report.

When you take the time to figure out exactly what someone did to make your life better, it will both help you to identify processes that work well, as well and encourage that behavior from your colleague in the future.

This practice also helps you figure out what you want from others, and where your team best complements each other.

Express Precisely What the Work Did for You

Did you feel relieved because you didn’t have to do it all on your own?  Did you understand the background of the company better?  How precisely did what the person you’re giving the positive feedback to improve your work?

While it takes a little longer to clearly articulate what the outcome meant to you, to the extent you start this practice, you will train others how to better do their work.  In the long run, you will make your job easier, and help build a more cohesive structure.

Let’s look at a specific example.

Best Pix of the Week

Suppose a supervisor says, “I really appreciated the presentation you did for the client today.  The points you made showed our company’s competence, showcased our past wins, and highlighted how we can meet their needs.  I felt relieved knowing I can count on you to do good research, make sure our clients hear what matters to them, and that I can allow you to run with projects without double-checking your work.”

The above gives you specifics about what worked, why, and how you can repeat it.  It also gives clear guidance about what your supervisor was concerned about, and how you can make sure to allay her concerns in the future.

We’ve spoken in the past about anticipating others’ needs in the workplace, and making sure to go the extra mile.  When we receive appreciation such as the above, it gives clear indication that what you’re doing is working, and how.

If you’re not getting that kind of clear feedback, you can ask for it.  When someone says, “Great job!” you can respond with, “I’m so glad you appreciated my work.  Could you tell me what about it helped you, or made you believe I  did an outstanding job?”

Clear communication in the workplace helps everyone, and this is just one piece.  Try it, and see what you think!

Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.

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