Why Your Leaders Must Lead Out With Recognition

Not every organization has a leader or a leadership team that drives recognition initiatives.

Always aim for leader commitment and support for your recognition strategy and programs. It is essential to get their personal and emotional commitment and not just their buy in. The concept of “buy in” is so organizational driven, detached, financial focused, and transactional. 

I will explain the seriousness behind getting your leaders to lead recognition in your organization. 

Cautionary Perspective

Leaders lead the way in most organizations. Hitching your recognition initiatives to your leaders can be a powerful influencer.

However, you must do a lot of education, communication, and preparation for your leaders first. For example, leaders cannot give the message of using recognition and reward programs with any sense of ulterior motive for employees to work harder. Just seeing a leader speak about the impact of the recognition program does not change the behavior of your leaders and employees. 

Leaders need to understand your recognition strategy and its focus on your people and performance. Recognition is being done to show appreciation and celebrate successes.

Leaders shine best when they give the vision of the importance of employee recognition. A presentation or video of your leader can become even more effective when accompanied by an employee’s message of recognition’s value because they have benefited from recognition personally.

Research has shown that information videos or presentations by a beneficiary of a program are more powerful than the leader presenting alone. 

The key then, is to couple the leader video or presentation giving the purpose and vision of the recognition strategy and programs, along with employees saying how much they have felt more valued and appreciated since leaders have recognized them through the recognition programs.

It is vital for leaders to introduce recognition everywhere by opening the doors to employees not normally seen on the stage or on the screen. Leaders become grand connectors who orchestrate recognition opportunities. 

Their job is to connect people throughout the organization. They need to sit down with staff in the cafeteria and have meaningful conversations with them. Leaders can follow up with their direct reports to learn of great things that people are doing and taking the time to recognize them. That way, the leader can extend the recognition previously given by their immediate manager by reaching out and appreciating people for who they are, and recognizing them for all that they do. 

Leader Emotional Intelligence for Recognition

Daniel Goleman coined the term emotional intelligence and laid out the capabilities that leaders must have to be judged to be emotionally intelligent. These capabilities align well with leaders who lead out well with recognition practices and programs.

An emotionally intelligent leader is self-aware and can recognize and understand their own moods, emotions, and drives, as well as their effect on others. They will understand how recognition is a felt phenomenon and needs to be encouraged by everyone.

  • Have leaders share stories of past recognition they have received and how it made them feel.
  • Look to their earlier years for accomplishments that motivated them to persevere.

Leaders who appreciate the need for emotional intelligence can control or redirect any disruptive impulses or moods they might have. After all, we are all human. They can self-regulate themselves to think before acting or reacting. You will find positive leaders are open to change and are comfortable with themselves representing needed initiatives in the organization, such as recognition programs.

  • Encourage your leaders to echo the purpose, vision, and goals of your recognition strategy.
  • Tell leaders what you expect from them and ask how they can best help you promote and encourage recognition practices and use of your programs. 

It is interesting to see that emotionally intelligent and resilient leaders work for reasons that go beyond money, power, or status. Yes, they have a powerful drive to achieve. But they are not ashamed to admit when they fail.

  • Conduct candid interviews with your leaders to capture mistakes that leaders have made in their lives and what they learned from their experiences.
  • Find out what their life purpose is and goals they want to reach. 

They also have a strong ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. It is easy for them to respond and adapt to other people’s emotional reactions. Emotionally intelligent leaders are good at managing relationships with staff and in building positive rapport with others.

  • Create opportunities for leaders to associate with staff informally so that they can develop positive relationships.
  • Meet with leaders often to inform them of employee perceptions of the leaders and of the organization so they can deal with these reactions.

Do all that you can to capture the vision and passion of your leaders with leading your recognition initiatives.

Recognition Reflection: How do you help leaders to lead recognition practices and programs in your organization?

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