Many people ask me if there is a right way in how you provide recognition to your groups or teams.
Some of the issues that crop up and cause people to question things with team recognition are concerns like:
- What if one person doesn’t pull their weight on a group project? What do you do then?
- Should you never single out individual performance from teams and only give group recognition?
- Is there a best way to recognize a group of employees?
With tough questions like these it is always good to draw upon principles of human behavior to help answer them properly.
Let’s examine each of the issues raised and see what recognition principles we can apply to address them.
Key #1: Principle of Equity
The main reason for the concern when someone isn’t pulling their weight comes because of discrepancies in the performance of one or more individuals.
People don’t like to see everyone receiving an award or be acknowledged for doing something when one or more of the people didn’t perform well or even contribute at all.
For the most part this equity concern is a management issue of not dealing with poor performance in the first place. Poor performers should not be on the team. Period!
This can be done through setting clear expectations, listening, providing skills and resources, following up on actions taken, giving feedback and ongoing praise, and of course, coaching and redirection. It also means dealing directly with any negativity right away and identifying performance gaps immediately.
In fact a good team should be made up only of competent players. This should prevent a majority of the problems associated with team member being seen as “unworthy” of recognition.
Key #2: Principle of Worth
Is it wrong to single someone out in a team? No it is not wrong. It is only incorrect if you put someone down in front of others.
Acknowledging them and expressing appreciation for their work is never wrong.
Remember most of us desire receiving some form of recognition for our contributions. What is important is to respect the individual’s wishes for private versus public types of recognition.
More often than not there will be the undisputed Most Valuable Player (MVP) in team sports. When it is clearly observed that one team player contributed significantly to the goal, then recognize that individual for why they shine.
Invite the star players on the team to assist in bringing others up the ladder.
At the same time, acknowledge the rest of the team for their overall performance success. Be specific, include everyone’s name, and tell each of them how they all made a difference. This principle often gets missed in the universal and global “well done.”
Share the wealth and spread the stories of what your teams are collectively doing right.
The key principle here is to be constantly looking for every individual performance that warrants praise and giving it on an ongoing basis. Make time to get to know all of your team members.
Key #3: The Gestalt Principle
Remember the Gestalt psychology principle of “the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?”
Team or group recognition should always exceed that of the individual(s) who shine(s). Using the sports analogy further, the team wins the cup or pennant and then they acknowledge the MVPs. The group is still greater than the individual. That principle has to be top of mind.
It’s important to have clear measurable performance indicators to show why someone truly contributed the most. This can range from sales performance and other business results analogous to homeruns and goals. Measurable results help eliminate disputes over who the “star” players really are.
From a qualitative perspective team members may even let you know who made the most difference on a project or goal.
Remember it is individuals who make up a team.
Make Sure To Get Team Recognition Right
When there is a requirement or expectation for group recognition, give both group and individual recognition. Focus on the group first and individuals second. Provide ongoing performance feedback to prevent actual non-performers and the perceived recognition inequity.
Q: How do you deal with equity concerns around team recognition?
Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.