When Leaders Have a Hard Time Giving Recognition

Not everyone is born a naturally gifted recognizer of people. Which means you’re guaranteed to have some leaders who aren’t great at giving recognition either.

You may be called upon to help these leaders. Or you may take on a personal interest in helping them to recognize staff better and make a positive difference.

One of your goals will be how to get your leaders actively using your recognition programs. But before that can happen, they need to be actively doing essential recognition practices on a regular basis.

Starting With Recognition Practices

I believe you have to practice giving recognition well first before you can ever begin to use recognition programs properly.

Let’s look at things you can do to assist your struggling leaders.

Always keep in mind that recognition giving is a learned behavior so anyone can do it. This means you’ll be coaching these leaders in building awareness of the importance of appreciating people. They’ll have to learn interpersonal skills and giving positive feedback.

Personal Commitments

Some of the activities and behaviors for effective recognition will require a leader’s personal commitment. Have them start small and commit to doing one of the following for the entire month. They can then add one or two more practices the following month, and so forth.

  1. Make note to start off all meetings with acknowledging someone in the room or expressing their gratitude to someone.
  2. Ensure they greet people in the hallways and outside of their office appropriately so employees feel respected and valued.
  3. Encourage them to look for the positive things happening and encourage staff to do their very best.
  4. Personally, congratulate people whenever great work is done or when they’ve made a positive difference in whatever way possible.
  5. Setting a positive example for everyone to follow with recognizing and valuing all of our employees.

Some of the skills they may need to develop are:

  • Learning the names of employees and their correct pronunciation to add more meaning to their recognition.
  • Taking time out of their schedule to stop and celebrate successes and employee achievements.
  • Practicing active listening skills and getting to know people better.
  • Observing how people are living our values and achieving our corporate goals so they can give positive feedback.
  • Use the Two-Part Specificity Rule™ with how to give meaningful recognition to people.

Prime the Pump For Using Your Programs

Getting your leaders to properly use your recognition programs requires stimulating their interest and their ability in using them correctly.

The term priming the pump comes from the procedure used to get older water pumps working. The suction valve needed to be primed with water so the pump would function properly.

Your job is to prime the pump with these leaders so they’ll be avid recognition program users. Leaders have a lot of other things they are responsible for besides recognition. But you can help them better understand the company’s recognition programs and how they can participate in using them.

Awareness Building

These leaders were likely not involved in the stakeholder analysis or approval process of the recognition programs. You will likely find they are not using the programs because they’re unfamiliar with them. They are also legitimately busy with other administrative and leadership tasks. You will have to be their guide in using each of your programs most effectively. Learning to practice good recognition skills will help facilitate this.

  1. You will likely have to orient them on how to use each of your everyday, informal, and formal recognition programs. Show them the purpose of each program and why they are important in supporting the company’s people and business strategies.
  2. Have them, or their executive assistant, schedule in time to write handwritten thank you cards. They can plan in when they will go online and send comments on your social recognition program.
  3. Suggest they request from their direct reports examples and names of employees who merit being recognized. Have them submit to your leader, the full context for each example. That way the leaders can give the best kind of recognition through the various programs.
  4. Help them know the objectives and criteria for each of your recognition programs. Provide regular updates and encouragement by email, in meetings, and in person. Don’t overwhelm them at one sitting.
  5. Coach them on ways to effectively make a formal awards presentation. This might not come easily to them. You’ll find they will appreciate your support. Give them cheat sheets and guides they can refer to later.

Regular actions leaders can take with effectively using your programs are:

  • Leaders are known for setting goals and reaching them. Recommend they extend challenges to all employees to use the recognition programs. Make sure they share how they’re participating in the exercise too.
  • Remind them to take time to familiarize themselves with people’s names. Learn some details from the employee’s profile they are meeting with.
  • Encourage them to personalize any online or offline recognition they give. Invite them to have their assistant find out unique personal and work-related information about employees. The leader can then use this in making a presentation or in writing recognition messages.

The key to helping leaders give better and more frequent recognition is in the doing. You have a great opportunity to teach them and build their confidence.

You are a great asset to your organization. Everyone can become a recognition leader through your influence.

Reflective Question: How are your leaders encouraged to use your recognition programs and give exemplary recognition?

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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