Compliments Are Not Always Helpful Are Not Always Helpful
Fishing for compliments

(This is a guest blog from Frank Sonnenberg on the problem of fishing for compliments.)

People like compliments. I get it. But what if you send the message that you only want good news and positive feedback? In fact, you want folks to tell you that your ideas are brilliant, your actions are flawless, and you’re as perfect as perfect can be, thank you.

Unfortunately, fishing for compliments is not in your best interest. If you discourage people from pointing out your shortcomings, you’ll never learn how to better yourself. Moreover, if you fail to do a postmortem, you’re bound to repeat mistakes again and again. That’s disastrous.

Just because you don’t know your flaws doesn’t mean you don’t have any.

Although flattery can do wonders for your ego, you know you’re kidding yourself. Right? If you are blind to your flaws, you can’t address them.


Even If It’s Good, You Can Always Make It Better

After every task you should ask yourself:

What went right and wrong?
How can I make it better?
What would I do differently if I had the opportunity to do it over again?

The rationale for doing this is to strive for continuous improvement. Here are 10 valuable tips for turning good into great:

  1. Welcome feedback. Be proactive in requesting feedback rather than expecting people to offer it without prompting.
  2. Seek the truth. Don’t shoot the messenger. Search for the truth no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel.
  3. Be positive. View feedback as an opportunity rather than a slap in the face. Separate the comment from your self-worth.
  4. Set the right tone. Encourage people to be supportive. Feedback is helpful and constructive; criticism is hurtful and damaging.
  5. Focus on the act not the person. Don’t turn an activity into a witch-hunt. The goal is to identify opportunities for improvement, not to find fault or cast blame.
  6. Promote open and honest communication. When you squelch discussion, silence opposing opinions, or shut off debate, conclusions are drawn from limited perspectives.
  7. Encourage accountability. Making a mistake is a reminder that you’re human. Accept responsibility, learn from it, and move on rather than making excuses, pointing fingers, or casting blame.
  8. Identify every opportunity for improvement. Don’t minimize the importance of small improvements. Success is a game of inches. Continuous improvement is the name of the game. Progress is one step closer to excellence.
  9. Turn talk into action. The only thing worse than not requesting feedback is not acting on it. When you do nothing, nothing happens.
  10. Park your ego at the door. Just because things went according to plan doesn’t mean an activity was flawless. Winning doesn’t release you from trying to improve.


The Only Way to Make Yourself Better Is to Try

You owe it to yourself to become the best that you can be. That won’t happen by making people kowtow to you or demanding that people stroke your ego. While that may make you feel good, they’re not doing you any favors. In fact, you may even come to believe your own PR and falsely believe no further growth is necessary.

You have a choice to pretend that you’re perfect or to face up to the reality that you’re human. Personal growth won’t occur if you shoot the messenger, bury your head in the sand, or surround yourself with like-minded people. In fact, surrounding yourself with “yes” people is like talking to yourself.

The only way to make yourself better is to try. That means striving for continuous improvement in everything you do. Don’t let your ego get the better of you. The only thing standing between you and greatness may be yourself.

(This post is excerpted from Leadership by Example: Be a role model who inspires greatness in others by Frank Sonnenberg © 2023 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.)

Leadership by Example by Frank Sonnenberg

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Frank Sonnenberg Frank Sonnenberg is an award-winning author and a well-known advocate for moral character, personal values, and personal responsibility. He has written 10 books and has been named one of “America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders.” Additionally, his blog—FrankSonnenbergOnline—has attracted millions of readers and was recently named one of the “Top Self-Improvement and Personal Development Blogs” in the world and one of the “Best Inspirational Blogs On the Planet.” Frank’s newest book, Leadership by Example: Be a role model who inspires greatness in others, was released June 13, 2023.


Gregg Vanourek and Bob Vanourek are leadership practitioners, teachers, and award-winning authors (and son and father). They are co-authors of Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, a winner of the International Book Awards. Check out their Leadership Derailers Assessment or get their monthly newsletter. If you found value in this, please forward it to a friend. Every little bit helps! Are Not Always Helpful

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