We Succeed When We Give Recognition



Too many people at work don’t feel appreciated for their contributions or anything they do and that’s not right!

How do we know this?  We typically measure the presence or lack of recognition in terms of employee engagement and stick a recognition question or two somewhere in those engagement surveys companies conduct almost every year.

Fellow Leaguer, Stan Phelps, reported that 43% of highly engaged employees are recognized once a week while only 18% of disengaged employees receive regular recognition.

Which translates into a whole bunch of ungrateful and unappreciating peers and managers, right? Well, maybe not. Perhaps that is an extreme view to take.

43% of highly engaged employees are recognized once a week while only 18% of disengaged employees receive regular recognition.

Truth is, some of us have a pretty hard time knowing how to do this “soft stuff”. I pose the question to you: Do engaged employees get recognized more often or are recognized employees more engaged?

By measuring recognition solely through employee engagement surveys we’ve done ourselves a disservice. Looking at recognition only through the engagement lens causes us to focus on the consequence or outcomes of recognition done right, rather than how to get it right.

I think we need to measure successful recognition in a different way.

Do engaged employees get recognized more often or are recognized employees more engaged?

Let’s make our metrics more action-oriented and leading-indicator-focused versus the pervasive lagging measures we use. Why don’t we define success with recognition giving as whenever we make time to actually say the right kind of words and demonstrate positive actions to express our appreciation to another person?

I believe we succeed when we give right.

This would make any attempt to acknowledge someone a measure of success. It would become a personal barometer of how well we are doing. Now I know some of us treat saying words of praise or positive feedback as if we worked in a foreign language we cannot speak. So let me give you some simple hints to expressing recognition the way people like it.

  1. Put the receiver of recognition first. Giving praise and positive feedback is about the other person and never about you so ensure to always lift people to new heights and focus outward on others.
  2. Be yourself and don’t copy others. The right words to say will simply come to you when you permit yourself to be fully open and vulnerable and not worry about your imperfections.
  3. Tell people what impressed you. Many of us do not believe the things we do each day are that important and that is why we all need reminding of the wonderful difference we are making.
  4. Let what you feel inside come out. Appreciating and recognizing another person stems from our inner feelings of respect, validation and positive emotions towards another.
  5. Vary your medium of communication. Whether face-to-face or remotely, learn to be creative in speaking, writing, and demonstrating the many ways of expressing your appreciation.
  6. Know what your peers like. Just because you like recognition a certain way doesn’t mean another person wants it the same way, so you had better learn their preferences and dislikes first.

make our metrics more action-oriented and leading-indicator-focused versus the pervasive lagging measures we use.

Each of us needs to get rid of the idea that recognition is hard. It is simple and we have to let go of ourselves and our negative perceptions and discover the rich and rewarding experiences that come from acknowledging everyone around us.

We also need to change how we measure effective recognition giving by leading the way by example.

Become a grand observer of life and the people you associate with each day, and you will begin to see things all around you that merit appreciation and recognition. Get ready to be blown away!


Photo Credit from Flickr

Roy Saunderson has spent most of his career showing people how to give others “real recognition”. He really is the Get Recognition Right® Guy. He is an author, consultant and speaker to organizations around the world from North America, Europe, Middle East and India. He serves as the Chief Learning Officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute and has personally worked with Boeing, Credit Suisse, Disney, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, and the Canadian Federal Government leaders in getting recognition right. And the best recognition for Roy to get right is being a happy family man and being married to his lovely wife, Irene, for over 35 years and enjoying their five children and 11 grandchildren.

  • Roy,

    When I think “who is my go-to guy for advice on recognition?” your name comes to me 10 out of the first 10 times* – so when I tell you that you nailed it yet again with an outstanding post… Of course you did! I learn something new and important from you every time we speak and every time you write.

    With this post in particular, your final point, to learn what your peers like and dislike first – that’s really important and often overlooked! You may think, “I like this, so of course she will, too. Who wouldn’t?” But just as giving your spouse a bowling ball with your name on it isn’t all that romantic, praising your peer in front of a large group when they are painfully shy is unlikely to be received as well as you had hoped.

    I was really lucky at my first job out of college, when our leaders modeled recognition and actually taught it, as in, literally, “This is how you do it. Like this…” So few of us have experience with giving heartfelt recognition, and if we don’t, we may feel that type of thing is too “mushy,” makes us look weak, or some other nonsense we picked up perhaps through osmosis as we were growing up in what can still sometimes be a dour culture. The Puritans may have died long ago, but their cultural baggage lives on.

    My favorite line will always be from Dale Carnegie: “Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.” That Dale guy wasn’t all bad, was he?

    *My go-to gal? Margy Bresslour, without a doubt! http://switchandshift.com/author/margy-bresslour

  • William Powell

    Recognition is definitely a precursor for engagement Roy. It’s great that you asked that question. Of course engaged people will offer more recognition, but the cycle has to begin somewhere.

    Engagement comes from an emotional response to culture. Recognition is born in the emotion of gratitude and exemplified by leadership. Such an important key to having a healthy and profitable organization.

    Thanks for the awesome reminder!!

  • tikoo

    A great article and a valuable guidance to be a team player, to lead and be led!

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