Kudos, Praise and Positive Reinforcement is Universal.
I just returned from a 2.5 week trip to Mozambique, Africa where I worked with a mission group (made up of 10 folks) to build a new church from the ground up. Despite the nearly 20K miles traveled, the experience was well worth the investment.
We chose to hire nearly a dozen of the local natives to help us with our work. They varied in age from 16 to 55 years in age. I learned that most lived in traditional mud huts with thatched roofs. Some were better off and lived in block homes that they built with their own hands.
We learned from the missionary that their daily wage, if they could find work, was around the equivalent of $3. Most of them only expected to eat one good meal a day. Even this was a challenge since many were from large families and food was equally shared to ensure all were nourished.
What I found refreshing is that nearly all had completed school through at least High School. Many were and/or had plans to go on to their local universities for further training. Importantly, the younger ones knew at least some English. Everyone knew and spoke Portuguese as a regular rule.
With that backdrop, we began digging the footers, mixing cement, building rebar reinforcement towers, laying block and pouring bond beams. All of this work was done by hand and/or use of primitive tools (like a wheelbarrow, shovel, or piece of pipe to bend rebar).
I did my best to get to know the workers by name. I do not know Portuguese, but it is amazing when you work with folks doing manual labor who laugh and enjoy the work; understanding begins to pierce perceived boundaries’ in communication.
As the guys began to help us dig in the first few days of our trip I would tell them “Good” to express to them our pleasure of their work. I learned that their word was “Bom”. So, each time a wheel barrow arrived at the footer’s edge all of us would exclaim, “Bom!” They would all laugh and work even harder with each trip.
About 3 days into the work, a fellow shared with me after I told him “Bom,” the phrase “Muinto Bom.” I quizzed him the best I could as to what that meant. The English missionary finally told me that meant “Very Good!” I learned at that moment that they were more like me and fellow Americans that I had managed over my career than I had first imagined. In short, there is nothing better than praise and people want escalation of praise as their work improves. Thus, from “Good” to “Very Good”!
In a couple of more days, further escalation of the phrase happened again. This time from “Munito Bom” to “Excelente”! You might be able to guess that it went from “Very Good” to “Excellent!”
I had learned firsthand that culture, location in the world, education, places you live, and so forth do not distinguish the need and desire people have for praise. And even better was the desire to please and continue to climb in the quality of recognition.
On our way home we visited Kruger National Wild Life Park. As we traveled through the park, we observed many animals in the wild such as elephants, lions, water buffalo, giraffes, impalas, rhinos, hippos and water bucks.
My trip was complete when I spotted this one type of animal and pondered what I had learned about praise and people regardless of where they live and who they are. Below is a picture I took of two Kudus grazing. Thus, “Kudus or Kudos to You!” I believe is a new global leadership phrase that we need to practice more often and in more places.
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