How To Find Out What Your Leaders Think of Recognition

Heading every organization is a senior leadership team.

They play a critical role in providing strategic and operational leadership for your organization. And they also play an essential role in representing the organizational culture and showing what leadership should look like, by how they interact with one another and with employees. 

They often leave your task to “read minds” on how each leader thinks about recognition. Hopefully, you have an exemplary executive sponsor who is a cheerleader and champion for the cause of employee recognition to draw upon. 

But in a general sense, how do you find out what each of your executive leaders think about recognition? 

The Litmus Test for Assessing Leaders’ Views of Recognition 

Coming out and asking for their views on employee recognition practices and use of your organizational recognition programs is a good beginning. 

However, you will rarely get a chance to sit down one-on-one with each senior leader to find out their attitudes and feelings about recognition. But one chance you might have to see and hear how they feel is when you make your annual review of employee recognition. 

Even if this is not a regular part of how your organizations functions with recognition, you can still stand on the sidelines and ask or answer the following questions yourself. 

Perception of others. What’s the word in the hallway on how good a recognizer they are? Find out what others think about them as a recognizer. Perhaps your engagement survey drills down on recognition behavior by leaders. You can use those results as an opener when bringing up the subject. 

Nonverbal reaction to the matter. Are there contradictions between the words they say when discussing recognition and the body language they use? If you find there is an inconsistency between what they say, such as being great at recognizing, along with nonverbal language such as looking down or to the side. You may have a sign that they know they are not doing so well. 

Tone of voice revelation. How is the tone of voice with their verbal feedback to you on recognition? Do they have a harsh, indifferent tone of voice or do they display a positive and warm sense of excitement and enthusiasm to your questions? Pitch, volume, and variety of vocal tone reveal much. 

Word selection. What is their choice of words they use in relation to employee recognition? You hear them talking about recognition in a meeting. Make a note of the words they use. Did the words they used have a positive or a negative connotation? Each word has a level of emotional meaning that can tell you what they think. Example: amazing versus good. 

Leadership development. How have leaders shown their willingness to improve their leadership skills in the last year? Leaders have a serious responsibility in their roles and need to be continuously learning and improving their leadership knowledge and skills. Have you seen ways in which they have changed or improved? 

Open and transparent. Are they willing to receive feedback on what they are not doing well at? Are their direct reports able to have a two-way dialogue with their leader and provide candid feedback when things are not going well? When you find out they are open to feedback they will be open to the value of recognition. 

Attitude of gratitude. How grateful are they for life, family, and the opportunity to lead? Do they frequently express their gratitude for work by staff? Are aspects of their family and their personal life woven into their communication with others? You may find they are senders of handwritten thank you notes.

Caring concern shown. Do you see evidence of them supporting, coaching, and caring for the needs of staff? They actively take part in sending notes of concern for those going through good and hard times. Mentoring up-and-coming leaders is a part of the coaching they provide to emerging leaders. 

Candid responsiveness. Have you seen a leader take responsibility for mistakes they have made and attempt to resolve the situation? We are human and we all make mistakes. Outstanding leaders quickly acknowledge when they have made one and do what they can to correct the matter. 

Humble acceptance. Do they show that they don’t know everything and actively seek advice from others from all levels of the organization? Leaders can’t know everything. Openness to seeking out information and ideas from all employees is a sign of humility that resonates as a quality of recognition.  

Continuous learning. Do you hear about, or see them, taking leadership development or coaching from outside the organization? Recognition giving is a learned behavior. When you know they are continuing to learn and grow there will be a willingness to learn how to give recognition to people the right way. 

Listening is golden. Are each of your leaders a good, active listener? You cannot expect everyone to be an outstanding communicator. But one skill you hope each leader demonstrates is being able to listen to the concerns of employees. If they can listen well, they will pick up on the things that are worth recognizing. 

Appreciates people. Do you find your leaders appreciate others for who they are? When leaders don’t take people for granted, you’ll often hear them say how much they appreciate such-and-such a person for some quality or work that they do. People feel valued by such a leader.

Regularly recognizes. Have you seen your leaders recognize staff in person and regularly use your online recognition programs to give recognition? Recognition is not just a topic to talk about. Amazing leaders know the importance of recognition to the people they work with. They spontaneously recognize people for the splendid work done well and commit time online and use your recognition programs to spread the word of excellent employees. 

Hopefully, these subtle and deductive observation skills will help you get a picture of each of your leaders and what they think about employee recognition. 

Recognition Reflection: Do most of your executive leadership team support the need for strong employee recognition practices and programs?

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