Great Recognition Is All in the Eyes

Have you ever noticed how people respond to the different kinds of recognition you give to them?

That’s how I came across the observation that great recognition is all in the eyes.

I first noticed this phenomenon on a cross-Atlantic flight seated in first class at the request of a European client I was meeting with.

The flight attendant, who we will call Jane, made the usual courtesies of hanging up my jacket and providing me with a glass of juice before takeoff.

Out of personal habit, I made sure I looked Jane in the eyes when I expressed thanks along with saying her name, which was visible from her lapel tag.

Every time she served me at my seat I would glance up, look her in the eyes, give a smile, and say thanks or some other expression of appreciation.

Now being the closet-psychologist that I am, and a great observer of human behavior in life, I made some mental notes of my fellow first class travelers and their interactions with Jane.

Each time she served these passengers in my viewing range, I noticed that they all seemed to be polite enough to say “thank you”. But they all shared something in common with one another. They never looked up at Jane.

You may have seen this behavior yourself. And I am not going to judge you, but you may have done it too. They all gave Jane that cursory movement of their head to the side and back again to whatever it was they were doing. None of them gave Jane their full attention and none made eye contact or addressed her by name.

Naturally, Jane just moved along to the next passenger in her aisle following each similar exchange.

Observing Other People’s Responses

Let’s take a look at my “mental” notes of the human behaviors observed from my fellow passengers and see how Jane reacted to them.

  • No eye contact was ever given by the passengers to the flight attendant.
  • No real connection with the passengers could be made.
  • No meaning in her work could be created because it became fairly rote even though she was very courteous towards the passengers.
  • No difference was made.

Except, I also began to notice something different with the service I was receiving in contrast with these other passengers I was watching.

  1. She came more frequently to where I was seated.
  2. She smiled back at me which the other passengers missed receiving.
  3. She used my name more frequently when addressing me than the other passengers.

She probably felt more valued, wouldn’t you think?

Positive Reaction to Authentic Recognition

Here’s what I noticed about Jane’s behavior. Following each interaction we had I saw noticeable differences with Jane:

  • More eye contact from her
  • More connection made with at least this one passenger.
  • More meaning for her on the job.

And did I forget to mention that I was offered more dessert than the other passengers?

It’s true! She served me more seconds of dessert than the others.

It seems making eye contact pays off dividends!

You can practice this skill by making more positive eye contact with your employees. Try it with any server you experience at restaurants or stores. And of course make time to give eye contact with those at home.

So wherever it is culturally appropriate make sure to look people in the eyes when you acknowledge them.

You may observe some very sweet outcomes from your action!

Q: What behavioral differences have you seen with people when you give recognition to them?

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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