The Opportunity for Recognition
One of the most significant things a leader can do to retain, engage, and motivate their team is to recognize them. In this fourth installment on the Power of Presence, we will dig into recognition as a crucial component of leadership presence. Perhaps there is no more important way to engage your team in the behaviors, the objectives or the mission you want them to achieve!
I see a lot of leaders blow over the subject of recognition like its elementary, its cliché, and even irrelevant. There are other leaders still that feel like they’ve got recognition wired and that there is nothing for them to learn on the matter. I think they couldn’t be more wrong. The moment we stop learning, we stop growing. Only a fool thinks that there is nothing more to learn.
The only type of recognition that’s elementary, cliché and irrelevant; is recognition that is elementary, cliché and irrelevant. Recognition stops being effective, when the leader stops effectively recognizing their team. Recognition, like a healthy tree keeps on giving and giving. Times have changed, and as the upcoming generations enter the workforce, methods of recognition need to change; they need to be as diverse as the teams we lead.
A key part of any engagement strategy is meaningful recognition. Simply put, it’s the idea of giving recognition that means most to your team. In order to know what kind of recognition would be most meaningful to your team, you have to know them. In order to get to know your team in this way, you have to desire to want to know them.
We bring a lot of baggage with us into the idea of recognition. Regardless of your role or the size of the organization you lead, leaders can get hung up on their assumptions about recognition. Maybe it’s the perceived cost associated with recognition, maybe its the personal investment it requires from the leader themselves, or maybe its a difference in values. I know many leaders that feel that job security, a paycheck; maybe benefits are all that a person should need to stay motivated, productive and engaged. Those days are long gone…long gone.
Even with the waxing and waning of the economy fewer people than ever approach their job with the mindset that they are beholden to their employer, that this is what they will always do, and that this job is their only means of living. There was a time that this was the mindset and indeed the reality. But these days too are long gone.
The factory worker mentality is gone. People no longer find contentment being a cog in a wheel, a widget on an assembly line. People want to work in an environment where they feel connected, valued, heard and known. They want to belong; they want to be apart of something. Meaningful recognition helps achieve this. It promotes an environment where each team member receives (and subsequently gives) meaningful recognition.
Another aspect of meaningful recognition beyond recognizing a person in a way that matters most to them; is recognizing specific behaviors or achievements that you as the leader desire most. Here is where a lot of leaders miss it. They think that recognition is the fluff that they need to do because they were instructed, or some research told them so. In fact, this can be a leaders most potent tool for advancing their mission.
If I recognize you by saying, “hey there [your name], thanks for all the hard work.” How does that impact you? How much do you value that recognition, and in turn what about that recognition helps me as the leader? Yeah…it doesn’t. Generic, impersonal recognition doesn’t help you or me. How could this example look different?
What could I say to you to make you feel more valued and understood while still helping me advance the behaviors I want to see. What if I said, “[your name], I saw your marketing report and really appreciated how you broke down the budget impact into categories, it made it really easy for me to understand. Thanks for putting all that thought into it, and getting it done on time…super impressive! I’m going to send it out as an example for others to submit their reports. Thank you!” Perhaps I don’t say this in passing, what if I hand wrote a thank you card, messaged you or recognized you in front of others at meeting?
How might this type of recognition impact you differently? This type of specific recognition communicates to you that your contributions are truly known and valued. It communicates to you how impactful it was (by being sent out as an example to others), and tells you what your leader values. From this you’re going to be more apt to put even more thought into your next assignment. You’re going to make sure you’re always on time because that is what you were praised for.
As the leader I’m going to use this opportunity to recognize someone’s specific behaviors for the purpose of making them feel valued as well as a teachable moment for others. This recognition example effectively becomes a way to extend your leadership presence, moving your team forward in the ways you want them to. That friends, is meaningful recognition.
I’m a glass is half full kind of guy so I’m going to assume for a moment that you totally get this idea of meaningful recognition and how important it is for growing your leadership presence. You’re totally on board this train, so it’s not a matter of if you should focus on opportunities to recognize your team, but how to create these opportunities. First, here some ideas for getting to know what your team values:
- Start meetings with fun icebreaker questions (best gift you ever received, worst gift)
- Team Building Activities:
- During regularly schedule status’, performance reviews: ask how they like to be recognized.
- Engagement Assessments can provide valuable insight
- Set aside time for recognition before each meeting
Once you’ve gotten to know your team better, you can start creating your own methods and frequency of recognition. Remember, recognition plays a crucial role in the retention, engagement and motivation of your team. Be genuine, but be strategic.
- What departments/people are most crucial to the mission at hand?
- Who receives the least amount of recognition?
- Plan in advance the key behaviors or achievements you want to recognize, and thus promote in your organization
- Calendar/Set Reminders
- Leverage Other Leaders to identify team members to recognize
- Create a daily routine for yourself
- Keep a stack of thank you cards on hand
- Budget for recognition strategies (not that meaningful recognition has to be expensive)
- Be consistent
The Power of Presence is about leading your team even when you’re not there. Making intentional, specific, and genuine opportunities to recognize your team will have an exponential return. As your team feels more known and more valued, they’ll have a greater sense of belonging. You will retain your best people, engage your team in the mission, and motivate them to give their best!
Next week in our next and final post in the series “The Power of Presence” we will dig into a related, but different component of acknowledging your team’s behaviors: Assessing and Course Correcting.
If you’d like to learn more and how to develop effective engagement strategies for your team please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have questions, comments, or suggestions? I’d love to hear from you, shoot me an email!