When Leaders Are Reluctant To Evolve Recognition Programs

From your daily administering of various recognition programs, you know exactly when it is time for changes. You’re also aware, from talking to colleagues who manage recognition programs in other companies, that there are often new bells and whistles you could benefit from.

But your biggest challenge can often be convincing your sponsoring leader of the need to evolve the recognition programs if they want to remain current.

I will share some ideas on how you can move things forward and gradually influence a reluctant leader.

Reasons Why Leaders Might Be Reluctant

You can’t expect every leader to jump to your demands for increased budget spend and more resources. Or they don’t want to sign off on the long, resource heavy RFP (request for proposal) process.

However, whenever you’re dealing with a reluctant leader they can sometimes be overcautious and not want to take risks.

Reluctant leaders are not in their role because they want to be. They’re often where they are by assignment, or because of a promotion based on their expertise or evidence of competency in some skill or ability.

There’s an irony in wanting to improve your recognition programs since reluctant leaders are often uncomfortable with recognition themselves.

They are not likely to advocate for increased personnel, resources or improved programs anywhere in the organization not just for recognition. This is all because they don’t like making decisions and they want to avoid failure.

Refocus and Reframe Recognition For Reluctant Leaders

Work towards getting their personal commitment. You already know they’re reluctant to make decisions or support new initiatives. Let them own the new direction by showing how their support and approval positions them more highly within the company.

Show them how the options you’re considering will solve problems you and others constantly deal with. This means fewer escalations of problems that would require their attention. Have conversations with them about what the new offerings will mean to people and performance.

Remember to make your requests uncomplicated and free of jargon. Explain any potential areas you know they don’t understand. Keep your needs simple, crisp, and clear.

Help shape their ideas about investing in the changes you want. Give them information on the benefits and positive impact updated programs will have on individuals, departments, and the whole organization. Let their eventual decision to proceed, be seen as their contribution to the recognition cause and the company’s people strategy.

Keep In Mind What They Don’t Know

Always be priming the pump with knowledge and information sharing with these leaders. Help prepare reluctant leaders well ahead of when you actually need their commitment to invest in new programs.

Provide them with the latest research and data on recognition practices and programs, employee engagement, and latest human resources trends. Drip feed small chunks of information to them so as not to overwhelm them.

Reluctant leaders are tight on the purse strings. They will always have concern for costs and will likely view recognition programs almost exclusively as an expense. Provide them with ongoing evidence of the impact of recognition on engagement and retention. Calculate ROI wherever the numbers lend themselves to do so.

Reluctant leaders often see recognition programs simply as nice to have rather than a must-have. Guide your leader in learning how recognition can be leveraged strategically. Help them to invite their direct report managers to use recognition practices and programs effectively. Target your recognition programs to reinforce your leader’s business goals and further strengthen positive relationships between them and their employees.

Understanding the personality and behaviors of reluctant leaders is essential for making the case for updating your recognition programs. Helping them mitigate risks and position themselves as contributors to improving recognition is the route to take.

Reflective Question: How do you handle a reluctant leader when you need their approval with improving your recognition programs?

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