The Power of Recognition

The number one job complaint hasn’t changed in decades – the lack of recognition.  According to employees, “You can do a hundred things right and not hear a darn thing about it. You do one thing wrong, and they’re right on your back.”

That makes me wonder. Why do so few leaders do a truly outstanding job of recognizing their employees?

Perhaps they’re from the “old school” mindset that says people will get soft if they get recognized.

I know it sounds strange, but there are a lot of people who think that way. They think that expressed admiration of their children, spouses, friends, and coworkers will make them lazy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Of course, a lot of leaders think, “I don’t have to praise my team members.  After all, they’re paid to do their job.”

True enough.  But if you want bottom-line results, people will work harder for praise and a paycheck than a paycheck all by itself.  Look at the research.

1. The Indisputable Power of Recognition

It’s not even debatable anymore. Study after study makes it perfectly clear that employee recognition is critical. In fact, nothing seems to be more important and more motivating than recognition.

National Underwriters discovered that when they surveyed more than 200 managers. Recognition for a job well done out-rated both money and challenge. On a scale of 1 to 6, their respondents gave recognition a 4.9 on the scale of importance, money a 4.8, and challenging work a 4.3.

In a Wichita State University survey, employees rated a manager’s “thanks” as the most powerful motivational incentive of all. Unfortunately, 58% of the employees said they rarely received a personal thank you.

Even more dramatic is the recent research from Josh Bersin, the founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte.  Modern, re-engineered recognition programs have a huge impact on business performance.  In fact, companies that scored in the top 20% for building a “recognition-rich culture” have 31% lower voluntary turnover rates!

And is that a big deal?  You bet.  Most CEO’s would pay millions of dollars to reduce voluntary turnover … in others words, to keep their really good people from leaving on their own.

So what’s the problem?  Part of it is focus.

2. Rewarding Time Rather Than Performance

Today there is a $46 billion market for employee recognition (gold watches, pins, thank-you awards, plaques, etc.).  It’s a huge market.

Yet, when you look at where this money goes, 87% of the recognition programs focus on tenure. People get rewarded for sticking around.

What a waste!  Bersin’s research found that tenure-based rewards and recognition systems have virtually no impact on organizational performance.

After all, when was the last time you stayed an extra year at a job so you could get a 10-year pin? Probably never!

Another part of the problem is having the wrong philosophy.

3. The Futility of “Never Good-Enough”

I referred to this in my opening comments.  The belief of some supervisors, managers, and leaders is that it’s better to take on the attitude of “A worker’s work is never quite good enough.  It’s better to keep them on edge, wondering how they’re doing, so they’ll keep on striving.”

Nonsense. That’s nothing more than a sure path to demoralization and demotivation.

The demoralized ones say, “Nobody notices what I do…until I don’t do it.” And the demotivated ones are giving less than their full potential.

Nonetheless, it’s a trap all too many leaders fall into.

As baseball manager, Casey Stengel, told Joe Garagiola once, “Joe, when they list all the great catchers, you’ll be there … listening.”

And one manager and salesperson stood looking at a map on which colored pins indicated the company representative in each area. The manager said, “I’m not going to fire you, Sherman, but I’m loosening your pin a bit just to emphasize the insecurity of your situation.”

One of my Journey-to-the-Extraordinary attendees said her mother used that same approach–demeaning rather than recognizing. She told me she worked and worked for several years to do well in her classes at the university. In fact, she did so well that she made it into a highly prestigious honor society. But her mother said, “I used to think it was a big deal to make Phi Beta Kappa — until you got it.”

Marcus reported a similar story. He said that was his parents’ approach to recognition.  Nothing was ever good enough.  He said if he took out the garbage, his mother would tell him, “It’s about time you helped around the house.” If he got all A’s and one B on his report card, his father would ask, “What did you do wrong to get the B?”

Marcus continued. He said as a little child he really tried to please his Dad, to get his Dad’s recognition. So one time he tried to keep his shoes in shape so they lasted a record six months. When he proudly showed them to his father, instead of praising him, his father pulled out a pair of shoes he bought 20 years before and said, “Beat that.”

Well, all of that can be changed. It’s one of the things I emphasize in my program, 4C Leadership:  Communication, Cooperation, Commitment, and Change.  You can release and inspire amazing performance when you know how to recognize employees and team members.

When I asked the members of my audience from the US Postal Service what was the most important thing they learned at the program, Diana Howard said, “Without a doubt, the importance of immediate recognition in my personal and professional life.  I can’t believe the difference it’s made in how people respond.”

Click Here for More Information on My Leadership Program or to Download a .pdf Summary

To get you started in the right recognition direction, spend five minutes doing…

4. Some Reflection on Your Style

What do people say about you?

Would they say you’re sincere, effective, and encouraging?

Would they say they get all the recognition they need and deserve from you so they’re equipped to do their very best?

If not, you need to give this aspect of your management and leadership style a bit more thought and attention this week.

Final Thought:  Most people work just hard enough to not get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.  But proper recognition, given the right way, can change all that.

“The Best Investment Ever!”

That’s what middle-school teacher Kevin Little says.  He writes, “Your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience was the best investment that I ever made in myself and the benefits have spilled over to all those around me.”

“It helped me focus on the priorities in my life rather than reacting to the pressures.  I am eating and feeling better and have lost 15 lbs. My teaching and my curriculum have improved dramatically, because I’m teaching my students with more purpose and more enthusiasm than ever before.  Their grades and high interest levels reflect my efforts.”

That’s the same thing that Sara Archambault from the Faribault Dairy Company found out.

She wrote, “My life has seen DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENTS ever since I attended your Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program.”

“On the personal side, I learned to believe in myself, take more risks, and even lose weight.  On the professional side, I’m now thinking the positive and using the positive in my dealings with coworkers.  As a result, I feel more respected by others and the people around me seem so much happier!  Thank you!”

Join me and other from around the country on November 10-11, 2016 in Chicago, IL for my Journey to the Extraordinary Experience. In this intensive, 2-day program, you’ll learn the 12 Keys that will unlock your wild success and happiness – both on and off the job!


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