How Creating Pithy Worded Thoughts Teach Recognition Principles

They define an axiom as “a self-evident truth that requires no proof” in certain contexts (“your employees are your greatest asset; treat them that way.”) 

They define a maxim as a wise saying (“pick a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”)

You can teach volumes with just a few words to get your recognition message across to people. And sometimes that is exactly what you need to teach people how to give Real Recognition™ the right way wherever they work. 

Consider the following two business axioms and maxims.

“Two heads are better than one.” Collaboration in this day and age is always far better than doing things alone. You’ll gain great insights and opposing views which will help you solve your situation. And you will receive ideas that merit consideration. The key is to listen to those around you. So, it might be more than two heads, but they will give you what you need. 

“Start before you’re ready.” This is like “done is better than perfect.” Sometimes we hold back on starting a new product or service offering, or perhaps some idea creation, until we have it absolutely perfect. Yet, the best way to handle these new ideas is to get them down on paper or have the mock-up done first. Then you can collectively see any mistakes or tweaks needed and then the faster you can fix them.

Now, here are some of my classic axioms and maxims that have helped many an organization teach people how to give better and more meaningful recognition to others.

“Recognition giving improves when you improve giving recognition.” Most organizations want to improve their engagement survey scores around recognition statements and questions. Recognition program owners also want to see greater participation levels with their online programs. 

But recognition program usage will never improve until individuals learn how to give better recognition in person. They need to be comfortable with how to give recognition. Recognition programs are only a tool to practice giving people recognition. So, teach people the positive behaviors and practices needed to express recognition the right way that is meaningful, memorable, and motivational.

“When you give people recognition, you don’t have to give a reward; but when you give someone a reward, you must always accompany it with recognition.” Far too many people confuse recognition with rewards, and vice versa. Leaders will often set up recognition and reward programs with a focus on tangible, monetary, or monetary-like rewards. Or you’ll see situations where peers can give colleagues rewards without manager approval. The expense of these reward programs then runs rampant with people rewarding each other without meaningful criteria or rewarding with a purpose. And then employees wonder why leaders shut down the programs. 

That’s when I came up with this axiom that has resonated with so many leaders and recognition givers from around the world. 

If people understand when to recognize someone and when a person merits a reward, then the usage of their recognition and reward programs runs effectively. That’s why I try to tell people that not everything deserves a reward. You recognize people for positive behaviors, and you reward people for results that go above and beyond. 

Recognizing people is all about believing in the potential of others.” Acknowledging personal effort, recognizing someone’s positive behaviors and their contributions, is all about lifting people upwards. It is both a present state acknowledgment and a future focused encouragement.

You may never know the impact a few words said to an employee today will have and inspire them to some positive future action tomorrow.

“With employee recognition, performance reigns but feelings rule.” One complaint against recognition in organizations is that it has become very performance driven and ignores the worth of people. My definition of Real Recognition™ is any thought, word, or deed towards making someone feel appreciated for who they are and recognized for what they do. That differs from a pure performance focus. 

I often ask my workshop session attendees to list what happens to people when they are not recognized. Another group of participants creates lists of what happens to people when they are recognized. Both groups generate long lists. 

I then ask them to identify two category labels they could group a majority of these words under. Not every word will work or fit the categories. I tell them the categories are polar on the spectrum, but not exact opposites. Time and time again, participants generate the category labels of “performance” and “feelings”.

That’s when I first came up with the idea that performance reigns with recognition, but it is people’s feelings that rule. Employees will either feel recognized, appreciated, and valued, or they will not. That’s why in our engagement surveys we ask employees “feeling” questions. “Do you feel valued and appreciated for your contributions as work?” We ask feeling questions, but we rarely express feelings when recognizing our staff.

Remember the emotional connection when recognizing employees.

“Appreciate self to recognize another.” This is what I call the ASTRA effect. Each letter is the initial letter in this quote. I discovered a long time ago that a person’s self-esteem and self-worth will determine their positive capabilities in recognizing those they observe doing good work well. 

If you, or your direct reports, are struggling with valuing the people they work with, have them evaluate first how they appreciate themselves. When they can accept their strengths and weaknesses and their growth potential, they will better see the worth in others and recognize them for it.

“Don’t just thank someone for no reason. Tell them specifically why you’re thanking them and how they made a difference in the world.” This concept led to me developing the Two-Part Specificity Rule®. This rule is where I tell people when expressing recognition that they must specifically acknowledge the Action observed or reported to them. They must also specifically describe the Impact of a person’s actions on other people.

By following this simple process when giving recognition, the meaningfulness factor shoots up tremendously. People not only know exactly what they are being recognized for, but they realize the difference they have made to other people.

Consider working with the creatives at work and craft some words of wisdom for inspiring employees to learn and practice better recognition giving skills.

It’s amazing when the light goes on for people. All it takes are a few words.

Recognition Reflection: Consider how meaningful thoughts and expressions could enlighten leaders and employees to give better recognition.

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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