3 Ways to Avoid Being a Grinch Leader

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During this Christmas and Chanukah season, many of us are thinking about the special gifts that we hope to receive. But when it comes to giving the most important gifts, many leaders (even honorable ones) can operate like the Grinch! How are these leaders being so stingy?

The Trait of Positivity

“Sometimes the hardest thing for leaders to do is to pause, reflect and then provide positive, affirming words to others.” [Tweet This]

In the vernacular of performance reviews or debriefs, we generally label it as positive feedback, but I’m referring to regular, daily communication with others.

Having been a leadership consultant, coach, and trainer for more than 20 years, I can tell you this may sound easy, but can be like pulling teeth for busy, results-oriented leaders. If you realize that you may be more stingy than generous with your positive words, realize that giving this gift is a fantastic investment that will still have a remarkable impact on results.

The good news is that affirming words of encouragement and positive feedback doesn’t require a new corporate strategy, and it doesn’t add costs to your budget. Well, that’s not exactly true. You don’t have to buy them, but it will cost you some attention, time, and willingness to think positively about someone else. Perhaps above all else, it will require being intentional.

Why Positive Feedback?  

Why is this gift so important? Here are three reasons:

  1. Positive feedback meets several deep human needs. Each of us has a deep need to have meaning and purpose in our life. Work is a big part of life, and when we know that we’re contributing and making a difference, it meets that need. It encourages our hearts and lifts our spirits.

When we receive positive affirmation, we are more energized; we feel better about ourselves, and we are more confident and more effective. We have less fear and can respond in a more genuine manner.

  1. When you compliment someone’s talents, contributions, and future potential, you’re contradicting some of the lies and negative beliefs that they have about themselves. We all struggle with these lies that undermine our confidence and cause unwarranted insecurities, both of which undermine our work performance. To quote another Christmas analogy, you’re helping them battle their “ghosts of Christmases past” and realize their true value.

From my background as a former Vietnam POW, I also like to think of it as bringing freedom to the captives. A good leader’s affirmation and expression of confidence can free us from distorted self-perceptions and  help restore our perspective of our true identity and achievements.

  1. There’s a multiplication effect that comes from genuine positive affirmation. We know that attitudes and emotions are contagious, and positive ones bring greater efficiency and effectiveness.

“When people are affirmed, they are more energized and confident. This impacts others, creating a generative effect.” [Tweet This]

How to Give Positive Feedback

So now you know why you should generously give positive feedback as well as its benefits. How do you do it? Here are three simple ways:

  1. Make it specific. Use a recent example of a successful contribution or some way in which the person has impacted you or the team.


  1. Make it genuine—short is fine. You don’t have to make a big deal about it—though in some situations that may be called for.


  1. Make sure you have positive energy and enthusiasm. If you are highly results-oriented and reserved, this step may be difficult. This is one time that acting your way into a new way of feeling and expression is not being phony. If you genuinely want to show appreciation and respect for the person, you may feel a bit uncomfortable. Stretch yourself to be more effusive in your delivery of this gift and give extravagantly.

Make it Intentional

I’m going to be very intentional for the rest of this year about giving positive feedback. I want to speak into the lives of those around me to show my confidence in them and their future. I’m challenging you to do the same and then post some of your experiences.

What did success look like? When did you miss an opportunity and how can you recover? Let’s be honest and share and see what we can learn from each other. Don’t be a Grinch—let’s give lots of these gifts. 


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