Claude, head machine tender for a paper mill in northern Ontario, Canada, told Session 6B of the Leadership Development Lab:
"My 'Pearl' is well known in the paper mill. He has just finished his five-year probation period. As a Chief Steward, I have had to defend him on numerous occasions. To say that we don't see eye-to-eye is a real understatement. Actually, we disagreed on every article there is in the contract, especially the provision that concerns and details the provisions of Block Rest Day (BRD). He still blames me for having to take a BRD after he came back from sick leave. From that day on, every time he talked to me or about me, he has tried to lower me or simply insult me. I tried to reason with him – but that didn't work. I just tried to ignore him – but that didn't work either. I even tried to speak the same 'industrial' language that he was using. When I did that, the air got pretty blue. Giving in to this temptation made me feel very unprofessional and it didn't work either.
At Session 2 of the Leadership Development Lab when we received our 'Pearl' assignment, I knew who I should pick, though, to tell you the truth, I thought it would take a real miracle to create any improvement in our relationship. The very next day, we had our monthly Union meeting.
After the meeting, I approached him and gave him praise on some of his comments during the meeting. He didn't respond in his usual way with an insult! 'What do you know,' I thought. That was different behavior for him. Afterward, a small group of us went out for a few beers and, to my surprise, my 'Pearl' sat down at the same table with me. We started talking and again I praised him with a little more specific details about his comments at the union meeting and how it helped make the meeting more productive. Throughout the entire night, he never tried to pin me or insult me in any way. I was amazed!
The lesson I learned from this experience is that praise is a powerful tool. It has the power, when done with sincerity, of turning a person around, actually creating a 180° shift. The action I call you to take is to go out there and praise people for their contribution to your goals. Look for the good, and when you spot it, tell people about it. The benefit you will gain is helping to create a positive, amazing improvement in their personal behavior, and perpetuate an ever increasing level of achievement of your objective."