Please Show Me How To Recognize People the Right Way

The best way to learn how to give amazing recognition to people that always hits the mark is to have someone show you how to do it. But it is a lot more than being shown what to do. Be an attentive observer of the intricacies that go into meaningful and effective recognition. 

Observe people and look for the emotional imagery they manifest in recognizing colleagues. Describe what you think recipients are feeling based on their reactions to being recognized. At different times, you can stop and ask people how they felt about the recognition received. 

You see other people’s work and their actions only from your point of view. It is important to be careful of personal bias. Learn to see positive actions and performance through the eyes and hearts of the persons doing these actions. Think how meaningful they are to them. This will influence you to express your recognition with greater care and awareness.

Be mindful to stay away from abstract concepts in describing people and their performance. Instead, limit yourself to concrete and concise descriptions of what you have seen people do, or that others told you about. 

To become an effective recognizer of people, you must repeatedly practice giving recognition to those around you. And that’s not just limited to where you work. Learn to recognize and thank the clerk in the post office, the server in the restaurant, and learn the names of people who work in your community. 

You can especially start acknowledging and praising people at home if you have a partner or spouse, as well as children and extended family. Even the dog, if you have one, will wag their tail in approval, too. 

Observing a Recognition Exemplar 

Instead of just being told what to do when giving meaningful and effective recognition, why not observe an individual known to be an exceptional recognizer? 

Verbal recognition expressions. Shadow this person during their workday and listen to them on the phone or when they are video conferencing. Follow them, if employees are back in the office, and watch how they interact with staff. Pick up on the times they praise or acknowledge staff for their positive actions.

Listen exactly to what they say and the type of words spoken. Pick up on the tone of voice they use and how you would feel receiving their recognition. What body language did they show while communicating their recognition? Since you were present when they gave the recognition, did you see how the recipient reacted to their recognition? Make note of these responses and what the giver did.

Text-based recognition communications. Ask your recognition exemplar for samples of emails they have sent out commending peers and employees for their work. Similarly, you can request some examples of any ecards or social recognition message they have sent out recently.

Find out if the recognition giver received any text-based or verbal feedback on the recognition given. See what you make out from these comments that represent the quality of the recognition received.

Take notes in a handwritten journal or through online documents to record your recognition observations and your personal impressions. Consider answering some reflective questions like the following. 

  • What did you think of the recognition they gave?
  • How did you feel hearing or reading their recognition messages?
  • Could you tell what the individual was being recognized for?
  • Do you sense they would receive well the recognition communicated?
  • Was there anything communicated stating how the employee’s actions had affected others?
  • Why is this recognition giver considered exemplary? 

Sample Recognition Messages Sent Out

Now look at a cross-section of eCards, social badge messages, and comments in the recognition news feed. Conduct your own analysis as to the recognition effectiveness and quality of these expressions.

You could look at various meaningful recognition factors, such as: 

Verbal Recognition Messages

  • Ratio of positive words to neutral or negative vocabulary.
  • Positive upward pitch and encouraging tone of voice.
  • Specific communication on the behaviors and performance being acknowledged.
  • Sharing about the impact the employee’s actions made on others.
  • Removal of distractions from the scene when talking with the individual.
  • Thanking the individual on behalf of the entire organization. 

Text-Based Recognition

  • Clear and specific recognition messages rather than trite lines like, “good job!”
  • Telling the recipient how important their contributions were to others.
  • Possibly giving insight into what went on behind the scenes to make the action possible.
  • Personalized comments with using the employee’s preferred name spelled correctly.
  • Ending off the recognition message with a warm and personal line.

This kind of learning is better than any online course or in-class instruction. It is real-world education in their day-to-day work situations. To be shown how to give meaningful recognition is far better than being told to do so.

Recognition Reflection: Do you provide shadowing opportunities to learn recognition giving skills from standout recognizers?

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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