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? 

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Why Leaders Need to Lead Out On Recognition

We all know recognition should be multi-directional in where it originates

Recognition is no longer dependent on being a top-down driven practice. Everyone, at every level, is responsible in valuing people and their contributions. 

But should your senior leaders at least be leading out with recognition? Let’s find out. 

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When Recognition and Rewards Are Not Top of Mind

How do you get leaders to be more aware of the importance of recognition and rewards? 

Too often, recognition and rewards and the programs you have in place are not top of mind for many people. And when employees themselves are not on board with recognizing others, you know you’ve got a problem. 

What does it take to raise the importance and value of recognition and rewards? 

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Teach Your Leaders How To Be Exemplary Recognizers

Recognition does not come naturally to everyone.

Leaders at the top of your organization should show the leadership competency skills that they expect from their direct reports. Leaders should help others to lead.

But that isn’t always the case.

Your goal for each organizational leader is to get them to inspire and value the contributions of one additional person every day.

How do you teach your leaders to be amazing recognizers of your staff?

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How To Help Your Leaders Stay on Top of Recognition

Hopefully, you have a supportive executive leader who acts as your sponsor or champion for the cause of employee recognition where you work. You never want recognition to become out of sight and then out of their mind.

The only reason recognition would ever disappear off of your leader’s radar screen is if you take it off yourself.

That’s why it is so important to help your leaders stay on top of everything that’s going on with employee recognition.

Here are some great ways to keep recognition top of mind for your leaders.

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Who Is The Hardest Person To Recognize?

Some of us have a hard time recognizing those around us and especially people we associate with at work.

Historically, people have viewed recognition as a top-down behavior where managers and leaders started recognizing employees who reported to them. This likely originated from the military where senior officers presented medals as awards for specific service or achievement in military campaigns. 

With the reduced hierarchy in organizations leading to a reduction in middle managers along with online recognition programs accessible by all employees, they have emancipated the source of who gives recognition.

Recognition is no longer constrained by a person’s position or title and should be multi-directional. 

But there can still be a bias or perception of who should give recognition. So besides considering who should give recognition, what about in the other direction? This raises the question whether some people at different levels of position are harder to recognize that others are.

Who Is the hardest person to recognize?

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What Employees Think of Recognition From Their Leaders

You and I know that there are many employees who are not getting recognized enough. 

To give people the right recognition, it would also be helpful to know the best person to make this happen. Who do your employees prefer most to be recognized by? Is it by your leaders, by their immediate supervisor or manager, or by their peers?

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Why You Need To Know Your Leader’s Perception of Recognition

Talking to employees versus talking to your leaders can yield a completely different viewpoint about what everyone thinks about employee recognition.

When Leigh Branham was researching for his book, The 7 Hidden Reasons Employee Leave, he learned that 89 percent of bosses believed their employees quit their jobs because they wanted more money. But when they talked to employees, only 12 percent of them stated they would leave an organization for more money.

Now, what about recognition? How do your senior leaders perceive employee recognition? The answer to this question determines the success or challenges you face with managing employee recognition initiatives in your organization.

That is why if you don’t know your leader’s perception about employee recognition you had better find out soon.

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Why Senior Leaders in The Room Change Everything

Female business executive standing alone in boardroom

Whether it is a strategy meeting, planning meeting, or procurement meeting, there is something special that happens when you have your executive champion present in the room with the rest of your recognition committee.

Managing, administering, monitoring, and planning the day-to-day aspects of recognition practices and programs, requires constant vigilance, self-discipline, and persistence on your part with supporting recognition throughout the organization.

The reason you periodically want a senior leader in a recognition strategy or steering committee meeting, is because they can help you align recognition with the business strategy and give you the vision of where they see recognition supporting organizational strategic initiatives.

Consider some of the following benefits of having a senior leader in your meetings.

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Top 10 Unconventional Ways to Lead Your Recognition Initiatives

Now is a time for unconventional leadership and innovation with recognition and reward programs. Analytics and AI are blossoming in the HR technology world. We need these same tools in the recognition space. This requires a certain type of leader – an unconventional leader. Look out for people who demonstrate these Top 10 Unconventional Ways to Lead Your Recognition Initiatives. They’ll advance the cause of recognition into the future.

1. Unconventional leaders have courage to do the right thing. If a recognition and reward program hasn’t shown any benefit these leaders are prepared to shut it down. But they’ll also expect you to replace it with something better that will work.

2. Unconventional leaders demonstrate impeccable integrity. They’ll want inclusion and fairness with all programs, especially with rewards. They’ll advocate for the receptionist and janitor the same as they would for any senior executive.

3. Unconventional leaders are wise stewards over everything. They’re willing to invest funds and resources for recognition programs over the long term. No one will be expected to do more, or work longer, than is right and respectful of home needs.

4. Unconventional leaders are humble enough to be working for others. You’ll find great leaders are willing to go to bat for you and work with you. They’ll want a strong business case presented and clear rationale for the programs you want.

5. Unconventional leaders simply care for others. Recognition programs are about caring and appreciating others. Besides praise and acknowledgment, they’ll want care shown for the positive and tough things that happen to their employees.

6. Unconventional leaders take on challenges. Why not boldly declare that all employees will feel valued and appreciated for their contributions on the job. It may not be easy to do but they will enlist every company leader to make sure it happens.

7. Unconventional leaders ignore what everyone else is doing. If a majority of companies are using points-based reward programs that doesn’t mean these leaders will follow. They will create the best vision and processes right for their employees.

8. Unconventional leaders lead with leading indicators. Forget about lagging indicators like recognition program usage and participation statistics. These leaders are looking to measure whatever behaviors precede every recognition experience.

9. Unconventional leaders are always dependable. They will lead recognition by example. You can count on them to consistently use your recognition programs. And your employees will always be proud to receive a thank you card from them.

10. Unconventional leaders use persuasion for power. They will never usurp control over your managing of recognition and reward programs. Instead, they will gently steer you in a direction that eventually makes sense and that you fully adopt.

Previously published in Incentive Magazine by the author.