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A Simple Motivation Tool

I am heading to France next fall. To get ready, I decided to start taking French lessons on Duolingo.

This morning Duolingo informed me that I had ascended to the Ruby League. I am embarrassed to admit I was somewhat gratified by this. I am even more embarrassed to admit, I have no idea what I did to become a Ruby League member. I do a few exercises a day and here, bingo, I am a Ruby League member.

Duolingo is brilliant in arranging its app so that you are constantly winning prizes. I have 900+ jewels and any number of XP points that I earn by finishing a lesson. I know I can double my XP points if I do a lesson early or late. I love doubling my XP points. These jewels and XP points do motivate me.

And yet I realize they are all make-believe. I am pretty sure I cannot cash in my Duolingo jewels to buy a Rolex watch (or anything else). I am pretty sure I am the only one impressed by my Ruby League status. These rewards mean nothing, yet they have power.

This is an important lesson for leaders. People want to be rewarded. If fake jewels from an inanimate app can motivate me, think about what a heartfelt compliment or token of esteem from a coworker or leader can mean. Letting people know you notice them will make them feel better about their work.

For a compliment to have its maximum effect, follow these few steps:

  • Do it in person, if you cannot do it in person, handwrite a note. A text is better than nothing but a poor substitute.

  • Be sincere. You must be sincere or you will come off as sarcastic.

  • Be specific. “You are great” is not as powerful as “The way you handled that irate customer by listening to him and then redirecting was masterful.”

I recently listened to a Hidden MInd podcast about being kind. The crux of the podcast is that most people want to be proactively kind but they are afraid they will be seen as interfering or will say the wrong thing. Yet, people love it when people are kind to them even if the attempt is a bit clumsy.

I think the same can be said for compliments. Don’t worry


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