Keeping Applause from Killing Your Growth

Applause usually follows a great performance. Concerts, touchdowns, Broadway musicals, and the winning shot all win the applause of fans and admirers. As wonderful as applause seems, it’s also like a drug that creates a temporary high. And as leaders, it’s easy to get addicted.

While applause is a sincere way to affirm performance, it is crucial that leaders keep it in the right perspective. In their book, The Laws of Lifetime Growth, authors Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura observe:

As a means of facilitating growth, applause can be wonderfully useful. It opens doors to all kinds of opportunities, resources, and capabilities that can support performance at an even higher level. But as an end in itself, applause becomes a growth stopper. It stifles the imagination and undermines motivation. By always focusing on improving your performance and treating applause as a by-product that you accept with gratitude, you can ensure continued growth.

That’s the best way to view applause…as a by-product rather than an end in itself. If all you do is seek applause, your addiction will undermine your leadership and bring your personal growth to an end. So how do you keep applause from killing your growth? Here are three keys to help.

1.  Give Your Team Permission to Push Back – When leaders surround themselves with “yes men” they easily fall prey to the lure of applause. At the beginning of your next brainstorming meeting, invite your team to push back when ideas are shared. Granting permission for push-back will help you keep a level head and maintain a growth posture.

2. Cultivate a Culture of Candor – Jack Welch espouses candor as an essential practice to accelerate performance…personally and organizationally. If everyone candy-coats the truth, you’ll never live with reality or reach your full potential. Cultivate truth and love in your organization. Implement a meaningful review process.

3. Share the Credit with People Who Do All the Work – Big performances are rarely solo endeavors. Even concerts featuring soloists rely on tech crews and people behind the scenes to make the performance a success. The same is true for leaders. Work hard to look away from the mirror and turn your attention to the people working alongside you. Share the credit with them….publicly, frequently, and with sincerity.

Above all, remember that applause can kill your commitment to personal growth. Sullivan and Nomura observe: “For a person to keep growing, the central focus always has to be the performance itself–never other people’s response to it.”