One of the great lessons you can learn as a recognition leader is finding out what other people have learned themselves after recognizing others.
You can gain this through a self-reflection exercise after employees have learned how to give recognition. Have them write notes in a journal or record them online. Teach employees how to give memorable and meaningful recognition. Then they need to put those skills into practice back at on the job. Follow up with them a month later. You find out how they did and what they discovered.
Ask learners what they achieved with their recognition goal. Ask them to relay exactly what they learned from doing the exercise, too.
Here are some insights gleaned from some of these self-reflective ponderings I have collected.
Below are a dozen comments selected from follow-up surveys of learning participants. In the learning sessions, I group the participants into teams. They choose a recognition goal as a team and then apply this recognition skill individually back at work. Thirty days later, I follow up with each of them to find out how they did.
What I am sharing with you now are a few participant’s notes about things they learned from the experience. I’ve edited them to remove any identifiers and for clarity. I accompany each comment with my personal observation for you to think about.
Learning Pointers to Learn From
Reflect on these comments as you read them and see what you gain from them. I give my thoughts following each one.
#1. “I am more deliberate about my recognition opportunities and I try not to miss them.”
Awareness is at least half the solution, with effective recognition giving. You must be an astute observer and listener to pick up on activities that merit recognition. This is the great value of education and training. It gives people awareness and insight into something they may not have thought of before. You can teach people skills that make them confident and capable to be a better person. And that makes a difference to the people they recognize.
#2. “Things happen fast. If you don’t give recognition right away, it gets buried.”
This was such a candid comment. So much of our work today is fast-paced and, most times, out of the sight of others. Recognition is about being very intentional. When you admire or appreciate somebody’s actions, you say or do something about it right away. Recognition is immediate and spontaneous. You need to be timely with recognition for it to be valued properly.
#3. “That people will get jealous of people called out.”
Okay. This is a possibility—but with a reason. If you have not recognized everyone in a while and then you do so, some people will feel left out. However, the cool thing about this situation is when you consistently recognize everyone appropriately, they’ll realize there’s no need for jealousy anymore. That was the situation in this organization. We had not recognized people consistently. Now, he recognizes someone for doing amazing things. Other employees are simply longing to feel appreciated, too. When you recognize everyone fairly, this won’t be an issue anymore.
#4. “It made me realize how great the person, and I, could feel when doing recognition. I couldn’t believe how impactful it could be on their motivation/ performance after that.”
Recognition is such a relational experience. It is a felt phenomenon. Recognition literally affects the brain and provides a chemical boost of endorphins to the whole body. This feels good to both the giver and receiver of recognition. This individual’s self-reflection also helped them see the behavioral impact that recognition had on people’s work behaviors.
#5. “I have to say that it has become even more obvious to me that some people have a tough time “receiving” recognition. For some people it feels like they are simply not used to it.”
When you’re doing a behavioral experiment and noting how you do, there are other things you get to see as well. Here, the participant applying their skills back at work noticed some behavioral reactions from the recipients of their recognition expressions. Many times, people deflect the positive feedback and acknowledgment you give people with negative comments. Strive to teach these individuals how to receive recognition the right way. Simply saying “thank you” is a good place to start.
#6. “Giving recognition is easy. There are multiple occasions every day. You just have to keep your eyes open.”
Here’s a positive comment on what the individual experienced giving recognition. They saw there are lots of times you can express praise, thanks, and recognition throughout the workday. The key is in her last comment, “you just have to keep your eyes open.” Do the same and you’ll be giving tons of recognition.
#7. “It’s people’s reactions after giving recognition. It motivates them and creates a positive environment.”
I thought this was fascinating. What they learned from practicing recognition on the job was seeing other’s people’s reactions. I’m a people watcher too, and it really is fun to observe the nonverbal and verbal responses to recognition. And I am glad they saw that recognition, given the right way, generates a positive environment. It does!
#8. “To not wait to do it later. It’s important to be more open to that. I am already not too bad at that. But now I have recognition in the back of my mind. So, I always try to do it ASAP. It’s a really good thing to learn and I thank you a lot for opening my eyes on this.”
The classic aphorism to not put off till tomorrow what you can do today is a guide for recognition giving. Except, when recognizing people, the time frame is sped up and contracted. Everything with recognition is in the same day for sure and immediately wherever possible. The other thing I gleaned from this comment is that recognition can be learned. Education opens people’s eyes to the possibilities.
#9. “That in the busiest time of the project, it is easy to forget to officially recognize people.”
Some work projects place high demands and stress on your time and performance. There are a lot of moving parts. Several people are involved simultaneously. Employees repeatedly tell me they are often recognized and rewarded when the project is done. Rarely are they recognized or acknowledged for the incremental successes along the way. People want to feel valued for their contributions no matter when they occur. Be sensitive to people’s feelings and recognize people even in the busy times.
#10. “Got to know my team better. Recognition is part of the journey of building trust between us.”
Would not have thought about recognition quite this way without reading this comment. You must always build recognition upon mutual respect. Consistency with recognizing those around you builds trust. How refreshing that this person saw recognition as a journey in the creating positive relationships between people. And, yes, recognition allows you to know people better, too.
#11. “I still don’t think about recognition enough or make it a priority. I’m too focused on my tasks.”
Ah, yes, the tasks you have to do will always impede recognizing people. If you let them. I have now made it a practice to put people first and tasks second. In the past, I made the same mistake as this person’s comments reveal. There is a harsh reality that work will always be there, no matter what you do. But people will not always be there. Some will leave working with you because of a lack of recognition. Others will leave the organization entirely. And others may pass away and you’ll have regrets for words you missed saying.
#12. “It felt good and I think I saw more smiles on the floor 🙂 I guess being thankful is contagious. Maybe those people I thanked returned the thank you to someone else. I especially felt it on my team. We kinda joked about the recognition as well, in a good way, which put more smiles on everyone’s face.”
This is a good comment to end with. If each person can learn that giving recognition feels good all around, then they have learned a powerful lesson. Yes, expressing thanks, praise, and recognition can become contagious. Notice this person says he and his team talked about the recognition that was happening. It encouraged others to recognize their peers. Recognition does put smiles on people’s faces. You should try it!
Recognition Reflection: What have you learned lately by recognizing your peers and others you work with?
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.