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. 

Leaders and Recognition 

Leaders tend not to believe that they have an important role in recognition. They don’t see every employee in action. There are managers who have a better handle on that. 

Yet, according to the Deloitte’s 2019 study on “The Practical Magic of Thank You”, employees’ “most preferred” source of recognition came from: 

  • 37% of employees prefer to be recognized by leadership above their direct supervisor.
  • 32% of employees prefer to be recognized by their direct supervisor.
  • 31% of employees prefer to be recognized by their colleagues. 

Now I know it is a slim margin between leaders and direct supervisor or manager. But leaders came on top,

This finding was further corroborated by research conducted by the Gallup Organization. They found that nearly one-quarter of surveyed respondents said the most memorable recognition came from a high-level leader or CEO. Gallup points out that employees always remember positive and personal feedback from their CEO. No matter how small the time and interaction a senior leader gives an employee, it can leave a significant positive impression on the employee. For some people, receiving an acknowledgment from their CEO can become a life changing experience.

Leaders Set the Stage for Recognition

The Australian Institute of Management conducted a Leadership Survey last year and discovered Communication as the most critical skill of leaders by 50.66 percent of respondents. In addition, they found that 39.62 percent of respondents cited Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) as the second-most critical tool for leaders.  

They defined Emotional Intelligence as “a type of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”  

EQ is another key factor in giving effective recognition that hits home with all employees. 

It is important for leaders to realize that they are always being watched.  

Leader must be exemplary in all they do morally and behaviorally. Employees put leaders on a pedestal—rightly or wrongly. And when they fail to be a positive example, immediately, trust and respect are lost. 

Leaders can do several things to lead out with recognition. 

1.    Leaders can call out other leaders in leadership/management forums/meetings and thank or commend them for positive actions the leader has observed. 

2.    Leaders can encourage other leaders to stop and take time to recognize those that report to them and those they hear positive things about.

3.    Leaders can be examples in consistently using the online recognition programs used in the organization.

4.    Leaders can add comments and acknowledgment to other people’s recognition messages on the social recognition newsfeed.

5.    Leaders can expect to receive regular reports on the success of the various recognition programs used and seek measures of ROI.

6.    Leaders can hold their direct reports accountable for their performance in recognizing the employees who report to them.

7.    Leaders can set the expectation that appreciating people for who they are and recognizing them for what they do is the way everyone should live by.

8.    Leaders can ensure that recognition practices and programs are aligned with the organization culture and with the organization’s strategic initiatives.

9.    Leaders can request evidence and examples of how recognition practices and programs are positively impacting people and performance.

10. Leaders can set the standard of consistency in valuing people and their work by giving meaningful and effective recognition to those that deserve it. 

Whether you have to communicate and educate your leaders one-on-one or collectively, they all need to know the importance of their role in driving recognition practices and effective use of your programs. 

Recognition Reflection: What are some exemplary ways your leaders show everyone how they lead out with recognition?

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