How To Make Recognition Giving a Positive Habit

What are the tiny changes you need to make to give better recognition more often to people?

In order to build recognition into your daily routines, you need to develop self-awareness for where recognition can happen. Then you need to develop the automatic habits of putting great recognition behaviors into practice.

This is not asking for tremendous leaps and bounds improvement. All you need to do is break down everything that goes into recognizing someone and then improve those steps by 1 percent. The tiniest margin of improvement added to incrementally will make a big difference.

Time to examine how you can make recognition a habit at your work every day. Dive in! 

Create a Recognition Habit System  

You don’t have to set a goal per se to improve recognition. This is about becoming a Real Recognition™ Giver and following some basic systems. Developing these systems requires following processes to create recognition giving habits. 

James Clear, in his fascinating book Atomic Habits, describes behavior change in three layers, changing Outcomes, change in your Processes, and the most powerful, a change in your Identity.

Outcomes are about what you get. This is the whole goal agenda of saying what will happen and what they will achieve when they are done.

From a recognition perspective, this could look like getting a certain number or percentage of employees feeling appropriately valued and appreciated for the work they do.

Looking at Processes, this is all about creating a change in habits that incrementally lead to the desired outcome. This might look like recognizing 5 employees each day who you work with. 

Then there is Identity, which is all about what you believe and who you think you are. Who do you see yourself as when you think about giving recognition? Do you have a positive perspective or a negative one?

When you have an Outcome focus to changing recognition, you have a goal or target and your thought is; I have to try to give better recognition. That’s not very motivating when you know you’re not doing the best at this behavior anyway, and somehow you have to do better.

Switch that with a new Identity viewpoint. If you think you’re lousy at giving recognition, then you will see yourself as a “lousy recognizer.” And that is exactly what you will be. You won’t see yourself as being able to learn to give proper recognition. 

Stop that line of thinking by changing your identity to a more positive label. It motivates you to learn and take on actions that reinforce the new label. If you say to yourself, “I’m a wonderful recognizer of others and always learning news way to recognize people better,” then your label will be that of a Real Recognition™ Giver! 

Clear explains in his book how forming a positive identity of who you want to become plays a key role in forming the right habits. Your beliefs and self-identity determine how you and I behave. 

The first step is not what or how, but who. You need to know who you want to be. Your habits shape your identity, and your identity shapes your habits.

The focus should always be on becoming the right person, not getting a particular outcome. 

As yourself, what would a Real Recognition™ Giver do? 

1.     Decide the person you want to be.

2.     Prove it to yourself with small wins. 

Each time you give authentic and meaningful recognition to someone, you are a Real Recognition™ Giver. 

Your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity.  

Identity based habits focus on who you wish to become. 

The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become. Your identity emerges out of your habits. Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become. 

Become a Real Recognition™ Giver!

Four Stages of Habit Creation

Now let’s move on to creating the right habits. 

All behavior is driven by the desire to solve a problem. A problem can be positive, such as you noticing someone do something good and you want to recognize them for it. A problem can be negative, such as having pain in your lower back at work and you want to relieve it. 

Follow along with this example. 

Problem Phase

1.     Cue: Your phone buzzes with a new text message.

2.     Craving: You want to learn the contents of the message. 

Solution Phase

3.     Response: You grab your phone and read the text.

4.     Reward: You satisfy your craving to read the message. Grabbing your phone becomes associated with your phone buzzing. 

Four Laws of Behavior Change 

Going a little deeper, Clear’s outlook on Atomic Habits highlights some laws associated with the aforementioned four stages.

How to create a good habit requires making each stage simple and easy. 

The 1st law (Cue): Make it obvious.

The 2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive.

The 3rd law (Response): Make it easy.

The 4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying. 

Let’s apply this to recognition giving.

1. Problem Phase: Cue > Make it obvious. You see or hear about a colleague achieving a major work accomplishment. If you’re NOT seeing or hearing about amazing things happening, you must connect with people to find out what people are doing.

2. Craving > Make it attractive. You want to know more details and how the person achieved what they did. Become curious about the fine-tuned details behind people’s successes and keep a record of these examples in a notebook or digitally. 

Solution Phase: 

3. Response > Make it easy. You reach out and call them or converse with them to learn specific information. By doing this, you give more heartfelt and specific recognition. Pick up the phone or use a video chat app and ask a few questions and let the other person share the story of their achievement.

4. Reward > Make it satisfying. You feel great after acknowledging them. Giving recognition becomes associated with hearing or seeing splendid work done well. You might even want to record in a journal your feelings after recognizing people and your observations of how they felt after being recognized.  

Questions to Think About 

  • Does this behavior help me become the Real Recognition™ Giver I wish to be? 
  • Does this habit cast a vote for or against my desired identity as a Real Recognition™ Giver? 

Recognition Exercise: Write when you will record one recognition expression experience you will make on a specific DAY of the week at a specific TIME and in what PLACE. This environmental trigger will help you create the desired recognition habit. Writing it out will make your intention to implement this new recognition behavior more ingrained.  

Now make recognition happen for you and for others.

Recognition Reflection: What factors do you feel inhibit your making recognition giving a regular habit?

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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