What your staff has in common with a 12 year old.

My Cajun friend has been referring me to the Dilbert blog on a regular basis lately.

The post noted above is all about the value of praise. As Scott notes, it’s powerful stuff when used sincerely.

As I noted a few days ago, we just got back from Scout summer camp. Every year at camp, I learn so much about the boys – but one situation always appears no matter what: The kid who can’t swim, or more often, can’t swim very well and is petrified of “The Swim Test”. Sometimes he’s in our troop, sometimes he’s in another, but he’s almost always there.

The Swim Test, better known as the BSA swim test, requires that you swim 75 yards without touching the bottom or any other supporting device, then swim 25 yards on your back, then float on your back for a minute.

Doesn’t seem like much to most kids and adults, but to a select few, it’s a giant monkey on their back. I know a few adults who struggle with it and would rather avoid the water if they could – but they usually don’t because they want to spend time in the water with their Scouts.

Passing it means that you have full access to the camp waterfront. Kayaks, canoes, sailboats, the swim area, etc. That’s a big carrot. The waterfront is often the biggest draw in camp.

Usually all it takes to get a guy through the test is to jump in, swim next to him the entire time and urge him along. Tell him he’s doing great and never stop talking to him – mostly to keep him from focusing on the bad thoughts that the water usually brings to mind for him. The praise and encouragement makes him forget about the time he was scared, at least briefly. Sometimes it takes more than one try. We’ve had guys pass the swim test on Thursday afternoon (camp runs Sunday to Saturday) – and it makes their week. Quite often, it’s one of the first things “that kid” mentions when he sees his parents upon arriving home.

Praise gets them out of their own way so their body can do the work without the mind’s roadblocks. Scott talks about one lady who just needed a little bit to help her past the roadblock. The mind is that powerful, but praise and accomplishments can train it to be an aid rather than an obstacle.

Praise isn’t just for the 12 year old during his first swim test. There are likely people all around you who are doing what they do best even better than you might be able to, better than they used to, helping you become successful and then some. Others are struggling to climb past that mountain you placed in front of them. As they progress, praise em. They’ll climb harder and faster, if you’re sincere – and they’ll feel like you give a rip.

And you’d better, because no one ever became successful all by themselves. If you think you did, I hope you wake up soon.