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Winning With People Lesson #5: Compliment Other People in Front of Others

For over 30 years John Maxwell has written and recorded leadership lessons which have been used to mentor tens of thousands of people every single month. One of the most memorable lessons I remember listening to is as a leader, it is your responsibility to find people with great potential and how to create an environment for them to flourish and emerge as “full fledged” leaders. The lesson was called “Searching for Eagles.”

Here are the ten marks of an eagle from that lesson:

  1. Eagles make things happen.
  2. Eagles see and seize opportunities.
  3. Eagles influence the opinions and actions of others.
  4. Eagles add value to you. 
  5. Eagles draw winners to them. 
  6. Eagles equip others to lead. 
  7. Eagles provide ideas that help any organization. 
  8. Eagles possess ideas that help the organization.
  9. Eagles live up to their commitments and responsibilities. 
  10. Eagles show fierce loyalty to the organization and the leader. 

It’s an inspiring and instructive message. Do you know who your eagles are?

This week 30 eagles will begin expanding their wings as part of our Teacher Leader Consortium. A dozen principals have given their eagles the ultimate compliment, investing in their personal and professional growth to embark in a 90 day teacher leadership program. 

But you don’t always need to send someone somewhere to pay them the ultimate compliment. In Winning With People, John shares that the most fundamental and straightforward way of winning with people is to give them a compliment, a sincere and meaningful words of affirmation. If you desire to make your team feel like a million bucks, you’ve got to master this very elementary skill. Don’t just do it in private, be intentional about being public with your private compliment. John notes a private compliment turned public, instantly and dramatically increases in value. Here is why:

  1. People want to feel worthwhile in life. 
  2. Compliments increase in value when we value the person who gives them.
  3. Compliments affirm people and make them strong.
  4. Compliments in front of others are the most effective ones you can give. 

Reading this chapter of Winning With People makes me think of two key moments in my education career. The first was when I was an EC teacher at Murrayville Elementary School in New Hanover County. My first year teaching colleague across the way, Shelby Gorski, would leave “positive” post-it notes on my door in my classroom. Nothing special, just little notes letting me know I was making a difference in her day or how I handled a student. Over time these notes basically became the wallpaper of my one wall. Twenty years later, not only do I still have a shoebox filled with those notes, it is the most common exit ticket I utilize during Leadership Game training sessions I lead. Everyone around the table write one thing they admire about the other people around the table. It is a powerful exercise that leaves people more excited to come back to work tomorrow!

Second, when I was a middle school director of Charter Day School in Brunswick County we lived by the Three Laws.

 First Law: Reward Good Behavior – You’ll get more of it.

Second Law: Teach to Mastery – Every child will learn.

Third Law: Watch the Children – If they are not behaving or learning, you are not following the first two laws.

The rules did not just apply to children, they apply to all human beings. In my final year as the director I instituted a school improvement initiative called Standing Ovations. This school wide-initiative was highlighted by a quarterly assembly that kicked off by students standing and complimenting individual teachers and students in the room. The adults went next and there wasn’t a session that went by that didn’t require a box of tissues being passed around. Eric Hoffer noted that we only think of ourselves as successful on rare occasions. It’s critical as a leader of any level to recognize that the people around you are putting in tremendous effort, regardless of their success. I am excited to say that ten years later, Charter Day School still utilized this easy but powerful school improvement initiative. 

To apply John’s teaching into your own life…

Forget about: 

Giving compliments only in private. Instead, give public praise whenever you can. 


Who can I spotlight in front of others?

Do it: 

Compliment someone around you in front of other people today.


When you give someone a public compliment, you give him or her wings like an eagle. 

I look forward to hearing about your steps toward Winning With People. Message me on how you have seen improvement in your ability to connect with people or are utilizing this weekly message. 

Your friend, 


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