We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a boss, parent, sibling, or teacher who had a magical ability to somehow make us dumber. Sometimes they do so by being wicked: poking fun, zeroing in on weaknesses, or by never giving us credit. Less nefariously, working alongside a supremely competent person can have the same effect. In the former case the other person convinces us we’re incapable; in the latter case we convince ourselves. When we’re not confident, we become our worst nightmare… we become dumb.

I hope and pray I never become a diminisher. I’d rather be a multiplier. I’d rather multiply the abilities of people around me by instilling them with pride, purpose, and confidence. This isn’t easy; it can feel more natural to tear people apart than to build them up. Below are five tips for how I build up coworkers. I welcome any suggestions on how to do this better.cialis

1. Give Meaningful Recognition.
My friend and mentor Chester Elton, co-author of The Carrot Principle and many other titles in the area of recognition, says there are three components to giving recognition. First, be specific about what the person did right. Second, provide context for how those right actions are important. Third, tie these right actions to the bigger picture, explaining how the world would be better if the company achieves its mission, for example. Read The Carrot Principle for a better explanation of how to do this right.

2. Give Clear Instructions Before Assigning Tasks
Don’t make it easy for your coworkers to mess up. By giving them crystal-clear instructions, along with examples your employees can benchmark against, you greatly increase their chances of getting it right. This way you get what you want, and your coworkers know they’re doing the right thing.

3. Let Them Work In Privacy
If you’re mining for the single best way to knock down a coworker’s confidence, stand over them while they work. Watch them type formulas into cells, or watch them interact with customers. This causes performance anxiety. Instead of dedicating 100% of their attention to the task at hand, the person being watched dedicates 50% of their attention to how they are being perceived. Of course their work will suffer. Avoid this by giving clear instructions, then letting them work in private, and then assessing their work based on the end result (not the process).

4. Only Apply Positive Labels
People give one another nicknames all the time at work, and that’s ok so long as the nicknames are positive. Calling a salesperson “The Closer” is positive. At one of my past companies we affectionately called someone with an excellent memory “Tupperware Head.” Those labels give people pride in their work and skills. But calling someone “Mr. Wrong” for making bad decisions traps them in a stereotype they cannot escape.

5. Defer To Their Expertise
If an employee works closely with customers, then be sure to consult them on any changes that will impact the customer. Cede ownership over things that happen within their domain. This way they won’t undermine new company initiatives, and they’ll have the authority to innovate.

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