Sincere, Positive Recognition – Pass it On!

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more. Read Full Bio

“You better appreciate the people that are important to you before someone else does.” — Lou Holtz

In conversations with business owners, CEOs and managers in organizations both large and small, one of their top five “common headaches” usually relates to finding, keeping, nurturing and retaining qualified and self-motivated people.

With that headache facing them, it is also interesting how many of these same leaders do not regard targeted praise and recognition as a critical coaching tool. Reasons for not giving praise or recognition include:

  • Takes too much time.
  • Takes too much effort.
  • If you do it all the time, it loses its meaning.
  • I don’t want to be accused of playing favorites.
  • The employee could use this to their advantage at review time.
  • …and the list of excuses goes on.

Many basic, as well as advanced, leadership training programs highlight the power of positive recognition, both formal and informal, in the workplace. Unfortunately, the implementation is often left at the classroom door due to the type of barriers mentioned above.

There is no question that today’s worker demands a higher standard from his/her employer. When Robert Lebow, a marketing executive, wanted to start a consulting practice in Bellevue, Washington, he asked Chicago’s International Survey Research to help him determine exactly what employees want in their work environment. After analyzing the responses of 2.4 million workers in 32 industrial sectors in the United States, eight characteristics “were the standouts,” says Lebow, chairman of Heroic Environments.

Seven of the eight included

  1. To be treated with uncompromising truth
  2. To be trusted by one’s associates
  3. To mentor and be mentored unselfishly
  4. To be receptive to new ideas, regardless of their origin
  5. To be able to take risks for the organization’s sake
  6. To behave ethically
  7. To consider the interests of others before one’s own interests.

The other characteristic, consistent with our theme, was: “To be given credit where it’s due.” Almost a century ago, William James, the father of American psychology, said that the deepest craving in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. In the old favorite, The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard states: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

In working through Maslow’s hierarchy, we in leadership roles are probably not always able to impact our team at the survival or security level. In fact, most team members are probably beyond those first levels. Where we have the best opportunity to have positive, meaningful impact, is to continually reinforce their sense of belonging and importance. And what better way to do that, than with credible praise.

In addition to the barriers mentioned above, another key factor in ineffective praise is that people do not know how to do it. They think that, “You’re doing great,” is perfectly on target. That can work a little. But without support behind the comment, it can wear thin.

The suggestion to get beyond the meaningless pat on the back is to give credit where it is due! And when doing this, back up your praise/recognition with evidence. In other words, here is what I recognize in you and here is the evidence, supporting my comments. Another suggestion, especially in ABCD (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty) cases, is to make the praise public and/or put it in writing.

If you are one of those that has received the applause of your peers, your team and your superiors in a public forum, you know how motivating and uplifting it can be. Also, if you have ever received a handwritten note from an employer, mentor or team leader that recognized you for your efforts, my guess is you have not discarded that note. They are not only big boosts, but hold very deep personal value.

In closing, if you are in sync with our theme, you will appreciate the words below:

“You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them for a lifetime.” — Dale Carnegie

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