Why Being Specific Increases the Value of Recognition

I had just read marketing author, Seth Godin’s blog post, in which he concluded with the line – “Specific can be its own reward”. And I wholeheartedly agree.

Being specific in your expressions of recognition and praise can be a rewarding experience for the recipient. Which is why I want to emphasize the need for this recognition principle to be taught to your managers and employees.

My goal is to encourage you to help those you lead be specific or become more specific with their recognition expressions.

Tell Me What Your Recognition Is About

When you recognize someone there should be no doubt in a recipient’s mind why they’re being recognized. However, in English-speaking countries, we have a hard time removing the tried and true generic phrases of a “good job!” or “well done!” from our vocabulary. Being specific will help you stop saying these overused expressions.

When you are to the point and clear with your recognition comments you answer the unsaid questions in a recognition recipient’s head. What exactly was it in my work that caught your attention? Why did you feel impressed to stop and acknowledge me?

I have repeatedly seen how the recognition you give to a person becomes even more valuable the more specific you are with your verbal or written expressions.

For example, they will instantly know exactly what they did that you felt merited being recognized. No more second-guessing and trying to figure out which “job” was actually “good.”

They will also know by your specificity the impact they made on others. You answer for them whether their positive actions really made a difference to those they serve. We often take the valuable work of our peers and staff for granted. Join the dots for them and give them meaning to their work by telling them exactly how much you and others value and appreciate their contributions.

Specific Recognition Makes The Internal Become External

All right, you might say. How does being specific make such a difference? Why should I be more aware of the words I use when recognizing people?

Here are a few insights for you. You first saw a person do something special that stood out for you. That observation created an internal emotional response. From there you felt something emotionally that caused you to react to the person’s positive actions.

Look at the following example that spells out to the employee precisely what positive behaviors they did.

Example: ACTION = “Thanks for how you helped that customer with selecting and purchasing several of our sale items.”

You possibly saw the impact and benefit that their positive actions had on another person or a group of people. When you are specific in your choice of words and how you recognize a person, you get to express your true inner feelings about them. You can also convey your admiration for what they did that made a difference to others. By using more specificity in your communication of recognition, you will have successfully transferred your positive feelings and emotions to another person for their positive contributions.

Consider how adding the following example to the Action statement above would complete the expression of communication in a retail scenario.

Example: IMPACT= “It impressed me, and you need to know that other associates are learning from your positive example.”

Now, compare hearing, “Thanks for how you helped that customer with selecting and purchasing several of our sale items. It impressed me, and you need to know that other associates are learning from your positive example.”

So much better than, “Good job!”

Recognition Reflection: Are you teaching your managers and staff how to be specific with their recognition communications?

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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