Don’t Leave Recognition To The Last Minute

There are some things you just don’t forget.

Often these unforgettable events in our lives are one of two types.

They are either the most positive and meaningful of experiences or they are the most painful and haunting of memories.

One recognition experience I had left an indelible impression upon me because I had to personally draw on the very things I usually teach other people to do.

Consider a time when you have had to use the recognition practices and methods you teach others to do.

Here’s my story about not leaving recognition to the last minute.

Meanwhile In Downtown Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

I was leading a two-day session to public sector managers and leaders on giving meaningful and effective employee recognition in Regina, Saskatchewan.

We were doing the workshop in a hotel downtown right across from the casino.

When you are doing a two-day session it is good to give some fun, easy to do homework at the end of the first day so participants can do it and report back to everyone first thing on the morning of Day 2.

The plan was to pair everyone up with a partner. Each partnership would follow a simple questionnaire to learn about personal interests, likes and dislikes applicable to knowing their recognition preferences.

We had an odd number of participants in the session so I volunteered to match up with one of the attendees.

My partner was a young, married mom with two young children who we will call Shelley. She enjoyed her job and the people she worked with. After hours Shelley loved to cook and her enthusiastic personality revealed that her life outside of work revolved around her young family.

The participants were explicitly told they could not spend any more than $2

The first day session finished at 5pm.

Those of you used to conducting full day learning sessions know that when you finally finish at the end of the day your body gives in to fatigue.

I knew I had to get a small token of appreciation for my partner that would best mesh with the needs I had identified.

But since I was a little tired and hungry I figured I would order dinner into my hotel room first and then go out later to purchase whatever I might find.

There was only one problem. We are talking about being downtown in Regina, Saskatchewan. What I didn’t know was that everything in downtown Regina closes by 6:00pm.

I was doomed!

I should have resisted my urge to eat and rest and gone straight away to purchase my creative gift idea.

I failed!

What was I going to do?

Go Back To The Basics

I went back to my hotel room.

The answer to my dilemma was in the Recognition Preferences and Interest sheet each of us had filled out when we questioned our assigned partners.

I reviewed my partner’s sheet very carefully.

Enthusiastic manager. Young family. Two children. Loves to cook.

All I had available to me, it seemed, was hotel notepaper and my Mr. Sketch® smelly markers I used on the flipcharts.

Some creative juices were flowing and I called my wife back home.

I asked her for some perfect recipes for young children.

She immediately thought of pink lemonade pie and a few other recipes that our five children thoroughly enjoyed.

Then I set out to carefully draw and color in the simulated end product of each recipe and hand printed out all of the required ingredients and instructions to follow for each of the kid friendly, yummy treats.

I ran downstairs and had the hotel front desk receptionist lend me their stapler so I could staple my masterpiece together.

There’s Got To Be A Morning After

Like the classic Maureen McGovern song, “Morning After” I was prepared to give my token of appreciation to my partner the next morning.

In that song the lyrics state, “It’s not too late, we should be giving” and so I gave my gift that I am quite sure cost well under the stipulated $2.00.

I explained my circumstances and how I was limited in available gift choices. Shelley opened the hand-drawn cover and saw the colorful recipe pages. When she saw the recipe for pink lemonade pie, Shelley oohed and aahed. You’d have thought I gave her a leather bound copy of Michael Smith and Anne Yarymowich’s “Joy of Cooking”.

I remember her saying, “I’ve always wanted the recipe for pink lemonade pie. My kids will love this!”

The fact that I had handmade this token of appreciation meant all the more to Shelley and she appreciated the time and effort I had put into it.

In return, Shelley had purchased for me a fridge magnet of Regina, Saskatchewan since I traveled so much. She lived in the suburbs so had a much easier time the evening before to find the right gift for me!

Principles to Follow

I learned a great deal from this experience.

  1. Have one-on-one time with people. There is great power from planning some upfront time with people to learn about their motivations, needs and wants, and personal preferences around how they like to be recognized.
  2. Money isn’t everything. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to give something that is meaningful to another person so long as you invest personal time and effort into the token of appreciation you give to them.
  3. Focus on personalization. Try very hard to find something to give a person as a gift of recognition that is uniquely tailored to them. It may take a little more time than my experience depicts but it’s really worth it.
  4. Do recognition right away. Don’t leave recognition gift purchasing to the last minute! I learned that lesson the hard way. Fortunately, some creativity and a wonderful wife helped me to win this time.

Question: How have you applied recognition preferences of a person to finding the perfect token of appreciation?

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.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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