power of recognition

The Power of Recognition (7 Steps)

Edward Reede, one of my many clients at the U.S. Army, told me “Several months after I was due my 25-year pin, the secretary finally asked me if I just wanted to take it from her, since she doubted the director would ever get around to presenting it.”

I thought to myself, “How pathetic. It’s no wonder the #1 job complaint is ‘you can do a hundred things right and not hear a darn thing about it.’”

And yet the power of recognition is nothing short of AWESOME, if you know how to release that power.

Take 13-year old Brad, for example. When he was cut from the soccer team, he was crushed. He felt like a loser, and several kids laughed at him.

Then Brad learned about “The Super Sweat” being held in Cincinnati, a workout for world hunger. The kids were to find sponsors who would pay them for doing sit ups, pushups, and jumping jacks … with all the money going to a good cause.

Two days before the event, Brad told Coach Cassis that he could do 250 sit ups … without stopping. So the coach signed him up for the sit-up event.

As “The Super Sweat” progressed, various participants dropped out. They could only do so much.

But there was a cute little blonde girl sitting near Brad who just kept smiling at him. Other people would wander by and say, “Brad, come on. You can do it. Go, Brad, go.” And Brad kept doing the sit ups, one after another, as other people thought the poor little kid would burn himself out.

Not Brad. Even though he was the kid who was cut from the soccer team, who was emotionally crushed a few days before, who could only do 250 sit ups by himself, he was now doing a great deal more. In fact, with the encouragement of his friends, Brad set a national record that day when he did 3,500 sit ups without stopping. The audience cheered and everyone learned the AWESOME power of positive recognition.

And it’s one of the seven immutable laws of success I will be teaching in my ExtraOrdinary Success 2.0 Master Class starting in September. I’ll provide more details later on how you can be one of the 25 people selected for this Master Class.

For the moment, here are some things you can do to release the AWESOME power of positive recognition.

1. Establish Clear Standards of Excellence.

In James Kouzes’ and Barry Posner’s book, Encouraging The Heart, they insist on setting standards. Every employee must know what you mean by excellent behavior that is worthy of recognition.

And every employee must know you expect these standards will be met. If they think you’ll settle for less, then that’s what you’ll get. But when they know you expect their very best, you’ll get their very best.

(Side Note: The same technique works on kids.)

2. Spend More Time with Your Teammates.

Talk to them. Listen to them. Observe them and their work. If you isolate yourself in your office or cubicle, you’ll miss some of your best chances to offer on-the-spot recognition. Besides that, if you’re somewhat distant, your recognition loses some of its credibility.

3. Tailor Your Recognition.

That’s why I gave you point #2 above. When you spend time with your team mates and learn their likes and dislikes, you’ll find out what kinds of recognition mean the most to each person.

In fact, if you don’t tailor or personalize your recognition, it could backfire on you. For example, if you give someone (who doesn’t like sports) tickets to a sporting event, you will not release the awesome power of recognition. You will release a spirit of disgust instead.

4. Give Recognition for One Thing at a Time.

Over-complimenting weakens the impact of your recognition. Avoid such run-on compliments as, “You did such a great job with that customer. You’re always so organized. You project a very positive attitude. And you’re really good with that new computer program.”

Instead, focus on one thing. When you do that, chances are a great deal better the other person will remember what you say.

That’s what one third-grade teacher did when she tried to explain the importance of penmanship. She said, “If you can’t write your name, when you grow up you’ll have to pay cash for everything.”

5. Be Specific.

Rather than say, “You’re doing a good job,” focus on something specific in the other person’s performance. Try something like, “I appreciate the fact you kept checking and re-checking the XYZ figures until they came out exactly right.”

6. Let Your Compliments Stand Alone.

Note these two words “stand alone.” Some people give a compliment right before they criticize the other person or ask for a favor. That’s manipulative. But it’s also ineffective. It can rob your recognition of the motivational power you intend for it to have.

Just make the compliment. You can talk about the other issues at another time. That’s what Fred Lewis learned and reported in Reader’s Digest. Fred was trying to nail some plywood, but for every direct hit on the nail, he missed four times. Nevertheless, his on-looking engineer friend was very supportive. He encouraged, “Atta boy, Fred. You’ve got it surrounded.”

7. Celebrate Publicly.

Some people get a little worried about the impact of public recognition. After all, it may cause resentment or jealousy among the other team members.

But that won’t happen IF the employees see you and the recognition … as genuine … instead of using the recognition as an underhanded way to criticize the other members of the team. Besides that, public recognition shows others which achievements earn praise so they can emulate them.

And there are lots of ways you can celebrate publicly. One might be as simple as passing along compliments you’ve heard. If, for example, a coworker praises the work of someone else you manage, make sure you relay the compliment to that person. Or forward copies of complimentary letters to the appropriate people.

Or you could name a day in someone’s honor. And you could play this up as much as you want. You could have a small ceremony and invite the recipient’s significant other to the ceremony. The ceremony might include a cake or a meal, a gift, a certificate, or even some oral or written testimonials from internal or external customers that talk about this employee’s exceptional work.

In fact, stories can be the most powerful part of the ceremony. So tell stories as to how and why the recipient earned the praise. It will make the event more memorable and help others relate to the recipient. Better yet, the stories reinforce your standards of excellence.

So there you have it. When it comes to motivating the best in others, you can get a certain amount of motivation by simply giving the other person a paycheck. But you can get a lot more motivation by releasing the AWESOME power of positive recognition.

It’s kind of like the man being led off to the electric chair. His cell mates shouted out, “Hey, more power to ya.” Recognition gives more power to the other person.

P.S. If your business or organization could use a refresher on positive leadership principles like the Power of Recognition, my program on 4C Leadership is the way to go. This program can be delivered as a keynote, a half-day, or a full-day seminar. Click here to learn more or to check my availability.

Dr. Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip, Issue 886 – 7 Ways to Release the Awesome Power of Recognition