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You Suck at Recognition: How to Properly Recognize Your Employees (Hint: It Doesn’t Include Pizza)

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You Suck at Recognition: How to Properly Recognize Your Employees (Hint: It Doesn't Include Pizza)

I want you to know that while I write this article, I have a note next to me that says “be calm.” I can get pretty passionate and loud about a few things. Some people would say I get “angry” about them (my wife blames my RBF). Major League Soccer (Go Red Bulls!). Good books. Recognition for a job well done. All of these get my blood moving. I know what you are thinking – I’m a wild and crazy guy.

Recognition continues to be one of my biggest struggles with corporate America. It amazes me how poorly people, in general, are at showing recognition for a job well done.

I know it’s tough! We have enough to worry about on our end and getting stuff done, and we are often moving so fast that we can’t find the energy to make it worth it! But remember – relationships matter, and spending the time and energy to build and maintain not only benefits you in the long run, it also makes your job easier.

Recognition increases employee engagement …

Every company is interested in engagement – not just from customers but employees as well. Engagement is a simple formula: People need to accomplish something and the organization needs to genuinely recognize them for it. There is no bigger engagement motivator than that.

The challenge today, however, is that leaders are trying to figure out why their people aren’t engaged when their team size is shrinking, they are losing their partners, and are expected to do more with less to hit unrealistic targets.

Many employees are working longer hours and doing more work for less pay – and their “thank you” is only the fact that their paycheck hasn’t been taken away yet. A paycheck only takes an employee so far. Managers and leaders that properly recognize their employees will create teams that will go to battle for them day in and day out.

…and helps YOU in the long run

The people you lead are the representation of you as a leader. You want them to be happy; you want them to be productive. And you want them to be your biggest proponent when they move on.

No matter the industry you work in – it’s small. People move from company to company and everyone eventually learns about everyone else. Your reputation as a leader travels well before you. And when you have teams of people speaking positively about you as a leader or manager, then your career has only way direction to move.

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There are different TYPES of recognition … but only one thing matters

The only universal rule about recognition is that everyone wants it; they just don’t want it in the same way. Some people want to be paraded across a stage. Other people want a private and genuine “thank you.” Sometimes – it’s not even a thank you. Sometimes it’s letting them know that you know they are capable. My best recognition story was when the CEO of my company said in a meeting, “Give it to Frawley – that way it will get done.” He knew what he was saying, and I stayed late every day that week to make sure it was done. I was never more motivated at any job then after that comment.

These different types of recognition are based on personal taste. However the only thing that matters when it comes to recognition it needs to be genuine. Recognizing a job well done doesn’t have to be complicated or crazy – it can be amazingly simple. But it needs to show effort.

Rapid fire e-mails out to individuals on your team saying “thank you for this” isn’t caring. Reading off a list employee names at a team meeting and finding something they did that week isn’t caring. Ordering pizza for lunch isn’t caring. This form of recognition is an agenda item – something to check off the list. So the meaning, the caring, and the effort aren’t there. It’s something you know you “have” to do, as opposed to doing something that is truly effective.

Recognizing employees doesn’t have to be a weekly thing. In fact, it shouldn’t be. It needs to be added to your repertoire and used when appropriate. Used properly, your reputation will build as the boss who recognized good work. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Give your people credit. When e-mailing a report to a senior leader, cc the person who did the legwork and reference them.
  2. Increase visibility. Bring some people along to your big meetings. If they are so important to a project, let them be seen.
  3. Buy people lunch. And no, not pizza. We are adults, for the sake of Pete. Put a two hour meeting on the calendar and take people out to a proper lunch once in a while.
  4. Give an afternoon off. Let people leave at noon on a Friday. Rotate Fridays off. When was the last time you gave someone an afternoon off because they’ve been killing it? Or send everyone home after that lunch you just took them to. Most work can wait until Monday.
  5. Thank people in person. Don’t send an e-mail. Swing out of your office perch and thank someone in person for something they did well.
  6. Simply tell someone on the spot when they’ve done a great job. And mean it.
     

Your form of recognition may differ – and that’s fine. But we often forget what it was like to be “the employee.” Taking the time to figure out what works for you (or, more importantly, your employees) will greatly help you in the long run.

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