Convincing Your Leaders That Recognition is Easy to Do

Leaders play an important role as recognition givers throughout the entire organization.

However, not all leaders realize the impact they have on people through the simple act of expressing appreciation to people and recognizing their employees’ contributions.

Someone asked me to write how they could better convince their leaders that giving recognition was easy to do.

Explore the following suggestions to make recognition a leadership priority. 

Leadership Communication Skills

Recognition is a deeply interpersonal skill that all leaders should develop if it is not an innately a natural strength for them. How a leader communicates affects the perception of their leadership style by their employees and direct reports. Learning how to give effective and meaningful recognition helps to lift employee morale, elevate motivation, and improve workplace productivity.


Leaders who have strengths in effective communication naturally build rapport and relate to all kinds of people. By having empathy and strong interpersonal skills, leaders connect with and understand people better. Good communication skills foster trust and respect, essential attributes for recognition to resonate with people.

The Australian Institute of Management conducted a Leadership Survey last year and discovered Communication as the most critical skill of leaders by 50.66 percent of respondents. In addition, they found that 39.62 percent of respondents cited Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) as the second-most critical tool for leaders. They defined Emotional Intelligence as “a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions.” EQ is another key factor in giving recognition that hits home with employees.

Leadership Commitment to Recognition

Giving meaningful recognition to employees is everyone’s responsibility. Yet, many organizations look to their senior leaders to set the example of being great recognizers. The key to making this happen is through coaching and training your leaders on what effective recognition practices are and what amazing recognition feels like. Great leaders know that recognition is not just a motivational tool. Recognition is a practice that is all about relationships and through enhancing those relationships brings out the best in people and all they do.

Research from the Gallup Organization showed that nearly one-quarter of surveyed respondents said the most memorable recognition came from a high-level leader or CEO. Gallup points out that employees always remember positive and personal feedback from their CEO. No matter how small the time and interaction a senior leader gives an employee, it can leave a significant positive impression on the employee. For some people, receiving an acknowledgment from their CEO can become a life changing experience.

Helping Leaders Get Recognition Right

There are many ways to assist leaders with learning and developing effective recognition giving skills. Consider the following methods.

Find out the leader’s recognition strengths. Evaluate your leadership team’s abilities to give meaningful and effective employee recognition using survey tools and other feedback methods. You could conduct a 360-degree feedback from their direct reports on their leader’s recognition abilities, level of consistency, and impact or quality of the recognition. From this review, you can determine what specific recognition skills need addressing.

Introduce recognition in easy ways. Invite leaders to be present on day one of onboarding of all new staff. Assign each leader to a small group of staff and give them a recognition challenge to extend to employees. Request that each leader encourage employees and managers to thank those who have made them feel most welcome during their onboarding time. Suggest the leader stay in touch with their group members over the next few weeks. This could be a great connecting experience.

Start off small with recognition. Give each leader a package of Thank You cards or blank note cards with a challenge. Tell them to write at least one note card per day for the number of cards in the package. Show them how to write an effective note of appreciation and thanks using the Two-Part Specificity Rule ®, and always make it legibly handwritten. Sit down in a follow up meeting with leaders when the assignment is completed and ask what they learned from doing this exercise.

Challenge leaders to connect with employees. Have leaders plan in time where they will sit down with or visit with staff. Orchestrate opportunities where they can build positive relationships through spontaneous visits to departments. Invite them to block out occasions when they can share lunch with staff and chat and have genuine conversations. Engaging in informal discussions to answer questions and concerns about the company.

Conduct a quarterly learning moment and coaching. When senior leaders meet plan in time to enhance recognition skills. Have each leader share a positive recognition moment and what they learned from it. Invite them to discuss difficulties they had and brainstorm ways to overcome recognition challenges. Allow those with strengths in this area to mentor their peers. Provide coaching on how each can improve and set goals for growth and development.

Convincing leaders that recognition is an easy activity to do will take time and persistence. Provide them with snapshot accounts from employees in writing and by video of the difference their recognition giving makes to employees directly and indirectly.

Recognition Reflection: What is the best way to show your leaders how to become excellent recognition givers?

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