Getting managers to consistently give meaning, memorable, and motivational recognition is going to take time and a desire for them to want to improve.
Leave those managers alone who say they don’t want to change. For them, it is a matter of looking at their engagement, performance, and retention results. Then their manager can hold them accountable for having to improve when their performance reviews are conducted.
Your time can be better spent helping those who want to improve and show them how to become better recognizers.
Learning A New Behavior
Becoming a positive example of being consistent requires creating a habit.
Doing any positive action consistently at work builds trust between employees and managers. You have probably seen how consistency is essential for recognition to be perceived as meaningful and authentic.
Find out from these “wanting-to-learn” managers if their attitude is consistent with their desire to learn new behaviors.
Ask them whether they are prepared to commit to doing one positive action well on a daily basis. Do a baseline assessment of the frequency of them doing the desired behavior. For example, do they consistently recognize their employees’ positive contributions – all the time, once in a while, or almost never?
The secret to adapting, or adopting, a new behavior, is to create a whole new process and plan it into your life. Then the desired behavior will no longer be a problem for you.
Here are four steps you can take to help willing managers learn to consistently recognize their employees.
Step #1: Create an easy and specific goal you know you can accomplish.
Since you want to help your managers become consistent with effective recognition skills, you had better describe what their desired behavior is.
Have them write down their recognition goal carefully. Identify and describe the specific target behavior they want to acquire. Since recognition always affects someone else, have them describe or list, specifically or broadly, who they are recognizing. Spell out when they will do this. This can be either a time of day or in consequence to someone else’s action.
“I am going to consistently…
[Do…] … express verbal or written appreciation …
[To…] …to any of my staff that I observe, or has been reported to me, …
[When… (Time or as a consequence of specific behaviors of others)] …on a daily basis, who have made a significant contribution.”
Step #2: Plan in when you could practice this behavior and/or schedule this activity into each day.
If you need to catch people doing things well, or showing positive behaviors, you have to go out and catch them doing these things. Build in times to visit and observe your employees. Vary the times so people don’t end up doing command performances for your eyes only. Solicit feedback from your direct reports or other managers your employees may interact with.
Step #3: Set up a reminder or cueing system to help you with practicing this behavior.
Set up a goal reminder into your Outlook® or Google® calendar. This might simply be a reminder to schedule in when you will visit employees. Or you might use apps like HabitBull, which is a tracking system to help you monitor any goal you set. You can even set timed reminders for yourself. Build a virtual community, if you would like, to support and encourage you with your goal.
Step #4: Do something to reward yourself for achieving your goal.
No one is perfect when taking on new goals. But the cool thing is, your managers will more likely carry out their recognition goal more often than they did beforehand. As they achieve whatever proficiency or percentage level they deem to be successful, suggest they reward themselves.
It can be a sweet treat if they’re so inclined. It may be reading a book for 10 to 15 minutes, like The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, or my forthcoming book, Practicing Recognition (click here to be notified when my book launches).
You might even suggest they write a reflective account in a journal of what they observed when they practiced their new recognition skill. Recommend they record how they felt after giving their staff better recognition.
Consistency always takes time and individual commitment. Develop a learning plan to help willing and able managers on how to create recognition habits.
Reflective Question: How consistent are you with giving people authentic recognition at work?
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.