I am a great believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy. When a person knows that their boss likes his or her work, the self-confidence goes way up and the person rarely disappoints.
Given that this view is generally held, why are bosses so hesitant to tell somebody they did a good job when they have done a good job? In general, humans are uncomfortable commenting on the performance of others (either positively or negatively). That is why performance reviews are usually put off, or done superficially, or not done at all.
Here is a very obvious practice that I highly recommend: On some regular schedule, like every month, tell your direct reports what is going well and what needs to improve. Also, do this at key junctures of a project, when reports are completed, etc.
In general, people want to do well, and this kind of regular feedback gets people on the right track. As the person gets more and more positive feedback, I’ll guarantee you will see the confidence and the results rise to new heights.
Sounds simple, right? Wrong! It turns out that it is a difficult thing for a leader to do well.