THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT OF All
Sometimes the greatest compliment is no compliment at all. It sounds paradoxical, but it’s true.
Over the years, I’ve managed my share of challenging employees. There was one who sometimes nodded off in meetings, another who occasionally snapped at callers while providing customer service, and another who could never quite master the art of punctuality.
With appropriate performance counseling, these individuals showed a remarkable turnaround in behavior, and I naturally offered reinforcing praise.
“Eddie, it’s great to see you fully attentive in today’s meeting.”
“Patty, you handled that customer with utmost professionalism today.”
“Michelle, you’ve been on time every day this week; keep it up.”
But let’s switch gears and think about the diligent employees, the ones we don’t talk about often. What about Maria, who is unfailingly punctual, or Drew, who consistently offers warmth and professionalism to every customer, or James, who maintains a razor-sharp focus in every meeting, every single time?
These individuals might not hear frequent compliments, not because their contributions are unvalued, but because their exemplary behavior has become the standard. Their high performance is expected. It’s the norm.
I’m reminded of the biblical parable of the Prodigal Son. Before diving into its relevance here, it’s crucial to understand its primary teachings. The story revolves around repentance, God’s boundless love, and the stark contrast between two brothers’ attitudes.
The Prodigal Son offers a lesson that goes beyond theology into effective leadership and recognition.
After wasting his inheritance, the younger son returns home and is celebrated with a lavish feast.
The older son, who remained faithful and diligent all along, feels slighted, and his years of loyalty seem to go unrecognized compared to the grand welcome his wayward brother received.
How does this relate to Christian business leaders?
While the essence of this parable is spiritual, drawing upon themes of redemption, divine love, and grace, its narrative provides a subtle yet powerful lesson for leadership. Just as the elder brother felt overlooked, our consistently excellent employees may feel overshadowed and underappreciated if only the dramatic turnarounds are celebrated.
In business, as in the parable, it’s essential to recognize and applaud those who have made improvements. It’s a form of encouragement.
But it’s equally important to appreciate the “older sons and daughters” of our organizations—those who consistently do right, set high bars, and perhaps even raise our standards without the loud clamor of correction.
Leaders, I encourage you to take a moment today to recognize those steadfast pillars in your organization. Let them know their consistent efforts are noticed. Acknowledge their unshakeable standards. They need that reinforcement as much as the employees who require more guidance on your team.
If you’re an employee who often wonders if your consistent performance matters, remember that the highest compliment may be the silent expectation of your excellence.
Your constant diligence is the backbone of any thriving organization.
Celebrate your unshakeable standards, even if the world seems quiet about them. Your heavenly Father notices, even when the world forgets to.
Hebrews 6:10 reminds us, “For God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” Even when they don’t specifically say it, your efforts are recognized, appreciated, and remembered by those around you and—especially and most importantly—by God.
Regardless of what anyone says or doesn’t say, keep shining and setting that bar high. After all, sometimes the greatest compliment is no compliment at all!