Is it just me, or does it seem like our social, professional and daily existence is drowning with negativity? As managers, our plates are full with completing daily tasks, fighting fires and fixing problems. When we meet one-on-one with our staff, it is easy to be distracted and focused on task completion rather than listening, guiding and developing. Have we simply lost the ability to praise and recognize good work?

I believe that we haven’t lost that ability; perhaps it has just gone dormant. As leaders, managers and participants in life, we all need a subtle nudge to remember that the most powerful influencer of behavior is simple reinforcement of things going right.

People like to be praised. Regardless of position, years of experience, gender, race or economic status, praise feels good. In fact, not only does praise feel good, but it has a direct correlation with improving the bottom line. Research has shown that employees who report receiving praise from their supervisors outperform those that do not. That fact in itself is insignificant, since it seems logical that employees who perform well would receive more praise than those who do not. However, when examined more closely, the research indicates that employees who report receiving praise from their supervisors outperform employees whose performance is rated equally but who do not report receiving praise.

As day-to-day distractions overwhelm our ability to become the supervisor we wish to be, one thing seems obvious but is often missed: Praise goes a long way. We often concentrate much of our daily effort on operational issues, focusing on the things that keep the job moving. When it comes to supervisory issues, we tend to focus on the issues or people who perform below standards, giving them verbal warnings, discipline and write-ups. In essence, we focus on the squeaky wheel, ignoring the preventative maintenance due to solid performers. The preventative maintenance is giving praise where praise is deserved. Praise is simple, it’s free and, most of all, takes less than 30 seconds.

“Great job,” “I appreciate the work you did today,” “Thanks for making that extra call today,” “Good work with that analysis,” “Nice hustle getting the sales meeting organized,” “Thanks for your hard work.” The phrases are simple; the difficulty is committing to use them. A good rule of thumb is to praise five times per day. It can be five different people, five good jobs – whatever it takes to get five praises out before 5 p.m. (or the end of the workday).

I guarantee that if you commit to praising at least five times each day, you will see a significant change in the motivation and attitudes of the people you supervise. In fact, as you continue to praise, your high performers will become more motivated to perform even higher. As your high performers shoot for new heights, they naturally drag your low performers to a higher level. In essence, by praising your high performers, you can actually eliminate some low performance issues. It is natural that when people feel motivated and invested, they will not tolerate low performance and will often push the low performers to shape up.

Praise is one of the most underused and most powerful management tools that money doesn’t need to buy. I don’t do it enough. In our current environment, we could all do better. Who’s with me? Try praising five times before 5, and you will see the change.