Almost 20 years ago, I got into the field of employee recognition after seeing too many employees feeling unappreciated and unvalued for their contributions.
Leaders, as well as employees, felt recognition was an expectation only from managers to employees – a top-down approach – whereas today we are more aware that everyone has a responsibility to appreciate one another. Recognition should be multi-directional and not just top-down.
What I saw back then were managers being told to go and give more recognition but no one was showing them how to do it.
I think people genuinely thought everyone should just know how to appreciate other people and express recognition to them.
While the principles for giving recognition may seem simple, if you’re not used to giving people recognition it’s not that easy.
There are lots of ways to tackle this problem. For now, I am now going to share with you 3 Ways To Get More People Giving Recognition More Often.
1. Get recognition happening right from the start and straight from the top. Whether at home, work or play, a personal example is always the best teacher. And you might not like hearing this but starting with an example from the top is always powerful. Notice I say starting. I have followed the examples of CEO’s, like Doug Conant, formerly from Campbell’s Soup, who daily spent half-an-hour writing handwritten notes of thanks and appreciation to employees. This takes a visionary leader who “get’s it”, who is willing to commit to making a difference through expressing recognition to everyone, anyway they can, each and every day. Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank, spends one-on-one time with staff at lunch hours and informal meet-ups to listen, reflect back and thank his employees.
2. Make the emotional connection right away and debunk the touchy feely problem. Recently, I had a general manager at a company make the time to write notes of appreciation to his senior leadership team. He then shared with them before handing them out what he personally went through and felt in writing these notes. After they were given out to everyone in a meeting I invited these other leaders to open their envelopes and read their notes. Those willing to share were asked if they could describe their feelings after reading the expressions of appreciation to them. Words like, “valued”, “satisfied”, “connected”, “not forgotten”, “good” were just some of the words people gave. We must remember that recognition is a felt phenomenon and we need to honor that. This exercise was a great starter for proving that people “feel” valued and appreciated when they receive such letters of acknowledgment. It was easy for them to then see how others in the company also desired to receive and feel the same way they did.
3. Show people how easy it is to do and set the expectation to go out and do it. If you didn’t grow up hearing expressions of love or words of praise at home; or if you weren’t a particularly academic or athletic student at school receiving accolades and awards; then knowing how to give people recognition as a boss or fellow employee at work can be hard to do. Make the time to communicate and educate everyone on how to effectively listen to people to show they care and pick up on what motivates people. Learn how to express recognition with clarity and authenticity versus vague generalities that are typically done. Realize and respect the unique differences of people’s preferences for recognition. Identify what people like and don’t like and try to give things that are most meaningful. Finally, you often have to tell people they now have permission to go out and give recognition to people they work with. Set the expectation that valuing the contributions of people is a must as well as a way of life.
Q: What do you do to encourage people to recognize others more frequently?
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.