A webinar attendee asked me this week about the best way to express recognition to someone. Were there any great examples of recognition I had heard? They asked what I would recommend that people say to give more meaningful recognition.
What I attempted to tell this person was to stick to the principles behind giving amazing recognition and not to script out what to say or write.
I’ll share with you some key ideas about this concept.
You’ve often seen them in action. Perhaps in a meeting you’ve taken part in or seeing them on stage at a celebratory award event. It might simply have been a pass by in the hallway. Or maybe you received a thank you note from them. Then there’s the masterful way they acknowledge team members in a virtual meeting. Recognition is alive and going well with this leader.
Have you ever thought about asking this individual for their help with giving better recognition? They might mentor you. But how do you go about seeking a mentor? Follow these suggestions for acquiring a mentor and start learning to give more meaningful recognition to people.
What do you see or notice about your peers, or direct reports that merits acknowledgment and recognition? Are you even aware of what your colleague works on right now that makes them proud? Why are they excited to come to work each day?
To learn the answers to these questions, you need to have excellent observation skills. You need to become an amazing observer of people and the great things going on all around you.
Check out a few of the ways you can use to develop amazing observation abilities.
Periodically, I will post classic articles that have helped individuals and are often requested or searched for. This is one that was very timely when written and still needs to be reflected upon.
As an industry we’ve created a semantic conundrum for ourselves. We interchange the usage of rewards and recognition as if they were identical twins. Ironically, in order to understand them both and use them better, we must decouple them and tease out their differences and learn the benefits each brings to the table. Learn from this Top 10 list and apply the insights you gain from it.
1. Rewards are tangible; Recognition is intangible. Whether tangible or monetary, rewards are always something you can touch and of a specific amount. Recognition is often invisible in nature and yet priceless in value. You can give recognition without giving a reward. You should never give a reward without giving recognition.
2. Rewards will always be transactional;Recognition should always be relational. Rewards are always if you do “X” then you’ll get “Y” in return. Recognition is so much more a relational exchange between people. Rewards are great for attracting people to an organization and recognition is perfect for keeping them.
3. Rewards are simply consumed;Recognition is mostly experienced. When you receive money or a gift it is usually spent, used up or somehow consumed until it ends. In contrast, recognition is a total immersion experience and a personal encounter of the best kind which can last forever. Carefully using both will help address the unique differences within all of us.
4. Rewards are transferable; Recognition is non-transferable.Rewards can be passed off from one person to another and are temporary in nature. Recognition cannot be removed from the person given to or exchanged and is quite permanent. Focus on achieving that kind of permanence through recognition while using the momentary impact possible through a tangible reward.
5. Rewards are certainly conditional;Recognition happens to be unconditional. Rewards are very dependent consequences based on certain terms or conditions. Recognition, however, tends to be more independent and not a fixed result of specific actions. It is blending rigidity with flexibility or at least knowing when to use one over the other.
6. Rewards are expected; Recognition is a surprise. It seems with rewards we go into a situation knowing that if we perform well we deserve the reward. With recognition, on the other hand, you totally have no idea until you unexpectedly receive it. Never let anyone down by not giving them a merited reward and learn to be spontaneous with appreciating and celebrating people every day.
7. Rewards are economical; Recognition is emotional. Rewards are a prudent use of resources in the whole economy of production, distribution and income. Recognition contrasts as a psychological and emotional event, a felt phenomenon. Remember that performance may reign but feelings rule!
8. Rewards are outcome driven; Recognition is focused on behaviors. Rewards are used to reinforce the occurrence of achieved results. Recognition can happen anytime someone notices positive behaviors of another. People want to know how they are doing before the end result is achieved.
9. Rewards are fixed; Recognition is flowing. Rewards are fixed and determined based on desired performance and the expected returns. Recognition is free flowing from one person to another and expanded upon as shared by others. Know when each has their place and use each of them wisely.
10. Rewards are impersonal; Recognition is personal. Rewards have little human dimension based on their tangible, contractual arrangement, even when given to someone. Recognition differs because it’s purely human connection celebrating people for who they are and what they do. This is where the giving of rewards can be made much more personable by giving recognition too.
Previously published by the author in Incentive Magazine as well as in this blog.
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.
Understanding the frequency with which different types of recognition typically occur will help guide your usage of recognition programs and planning to make other forms of recognition happen. These are the elements that you must teach others, too. Then they will use your recognition programs wisely and practice recognition giving more often.
This is important to remember because each person at work has different expectations of how often they think other people should recognize them. So, there is also a frequency preference to contend with for every employee.
Let me give you an example from a healthcare organization that I surveyed to look at the frequency of recognition and how their employees felt about it.
If there is one thing that I have learned from over 25-years in the recognition field, it’s that people define the same terms completely differently. For some people, they say recognition and they really mean rewards, and it’s difficult to shift their mindset. Then there are others who think that rewards are the only form of recognition they need.
That’s why I always strive to level-set the playing field by educating everyone on the working definitions of terms like recognition and rewards. My recommendation is for you to do exactly the same thing where you work. Teach everyone the definitions that resonate for you and your organization.
The best way to learn how to give amazing recognition to people that always hits the mark is to have someone show you how to do it. But it is a lot more than being shown what to do. Be an attentive observer of the intricacies that go into meaningful and effective recognition.
Observe people and look for the emotional imagery they manifest in recognizing colleagues. Describe what you think recipients are feeling based on their reactions to being recognized. At different times, you can stop and ask people how they felt about the recognition received.