In researching recognition practices and the positive behaviors and principles associated with meaningful recognition, I have identified at least forty essential behaviors needed for giving recognition seen as authentic and effective in the eyes of employees.
My colleague, Dr. Charles Scherbaum, and I have even developed a Recognition Skills Assessment that assesses an individual’s strengths and weaknesses around these researched behaviors.
But over and above all these behaviors, skills, and practices, what’s the one thing you can do to improve your recognition giving abilities?
Your One Key to Improved Recognition
Before I give you the one thing you need to improve to give better recognition, I want to remind you of some behaviors and skills we found in our recognition research.
When we looked at the behaviors under Appreciative Listening skills, the top behavior identified there was “putting away distractions and paying attention to what people are saying to you”. Makes sense that when recognizing people you should give them your full attention.
For the Recognition Talking skill area it surprised me to find the most important, impactful and most frequently behavior displayed by great recognizers, was “using an appropriate tone of voice when speaking to people”. My, how important your voice is, in conveying the emotion behind your words.
Looking at the Praiseworthy Actions category, the most highly ranked behavior was “demonstrating authenticity in the recognition and praise given to people”. Your recognition message must be sincere and genuine.
Under the area of Rewarding Giving the top-ranked behavior, which made sense was “making sure that, whenever you give any tangible gift or award, you accompany it with spoken or written words of appreciation”. Never give a recognition gift without a recognition message.
And finally, with the Acknowledging Intent category, the behavior or attitude that came up highest ranked was “it is essential that the giver of recognition believes that the act of giving recognition can actually impact employee engagement, and drive performance.”
Boiling down to one thing all of the behaviors we reviewed and did content validation work on is very hard. But when I think about the one thing I think we all need, it comes down to the single word of “authenticity”––to be yourself, your best self, and be real and genuine with your expressions of recognition every day.
Academics define authenticity as when a person acts in agreement with their true self (i.e., one’s own core values). So your recognition must ring true and be meaningful and sound like it really comes from you and no one else.
For example, peers and staff will be more forgiving of an awkwardly given attempt at recognizing someone given with pure authenticity than to not recognizing them at all or receiving trite, generic styled recognition.
What It Takes To Be Authentic
To be authentic, you need to use open communication and show trust to those you work with. You live authentically in tune with your own values and they can count you on to do what is right. Authenticity is a quality proven over time to your colleagues and employees. When people you work with know you are consistent and reliable with what you say and do, then they can believe you are the real thing––authentic!
Interestingly, some research has shown that employees who can fully be themselves at work—i.e., who are authentic—will show higher levels of intrinsically motivated behavior. Authentic people are never swayed by their work environment or by other people’s opinions. It anchors them and they are secure.
Ask yourself the following questions to see how authentic you are in the workplace.
- Do you live by your values and beliefs?
- Are you the same person that colleagues and staff see at work as others would see at home and in the community?
- Do you refrain from letting the opinion of others influence you?
- Are you more comfortable being yourself that trying to be popular?
- Is the recognition you give to people sincere and genuine?
- Are you open with your feelings and style of communication?
Recognition Reflection: In what ways are you striving to be more authentic with the recognition you give to people?
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.