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What’s The Best Compliment You Can Receive?

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Last year, I sent an email to 10 members of a forum-based community who had been named member of the week (MOTW) in the past 6 months.

Can you guess how being a MOTW made the winners feel?

Patronised.

It didn’t feel real. It felt like a “made up thing” (two people used this exact phrase).

We’ve tried to optimise and scale recognition in a really bad way. When you send people a badge, thank them without being specific, and automate messages of gratitude, it does more harm than good.

Imagine giving a digital badge to a professor who published a groundbreaking paper. It would be remarkably condescending. Like the professor most of us over the age of 10 care far more about appreciation and respect.

Recognition is an important competence factor. We can do it much better if we focus less on the recognition of the act and more on making the recipient feel appreciated and respected.

Think of the best compliment you have received recently. Who would it come from? What would it say?

It would probably:

  1. Be from someone you respect or who was highly impacted by what you did.
  2. It would acknowledge the amount of work/struggle you put into the object.
  3. It would highly in detail how you helped them.
  4. It would be very personal. One to one, not a mass-announcement.
  5. It would feel sincere – not forced or created to fit a quota.

Yesterday someone explained how Buzzing Communities became the framework for community activities across the organisation. That’s probably the most powerful compliment an author can receive.

It’s powerful because it’s personal and detailed. It’s not a polite “thank you for the book” it’s “this is how your book helped us”. The impact matters far more.

At the moment we’re blowing the recognition factor on points, badges, and content-driven mass-announcements regardless of quality. Respect should come from someone we respect. Appreciation should include clear details how it helped them. We shouldn’t recognise people to fill slots in a content calendar. Mass announcements and automated messages help no-one.

I can’t remember many compliments made in a big, public, announcement. I rarely forget the private, meaningful, messages from people I respect.

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