BusinessDay

How recognition works as an effective leadership style

Several years ago, I was appointed to lead an organization. I regularly would genuinely recognize and praise team members and employees for motivating them. One day, the outgoing president and finance manager told me to stop. They said to me, “You are always praising these guys for nothing. They do not need any public recognition for doing what they are paid to do. That is why we pay them monthly salaries. Praising them will make them ineffective”. Then I ran these views by a senior leader who, to my surprise, shares a similar opinion. He said, “praise is for wimps, and if you continue this way, your people will take you for granted.” However, this was contrary to the lessons I received from my father. As a child, I regularly visited his office, and I saw how he demonstrated leadership for people at his office. A few weeks later, it was the Finance Manager’s birthday, and I saw an opportunity to run an experiment on him. I requested we move the leadership meeting to Monday, his birthday, instead of the regular Friday. At the meeting, I gave him a personal gift, made him cut a cake with everyone singing for him, and praised him. During my speech, I told him he was doing a great job and that I appreciated the work that he was doing. You can imagine his reaction; he was ecstatic. He beamed with a huge smile as everyone complimented him. He has grown an inch taller and puffed up after the meeting or what I call the birthday party. He appreciated me for the kind words and for recognizing his hard work.

The result of this experiment was no surprise to me; instead, it reinforced my conviction that people crave praise and recognition more than they seek money in the hierarchy of human needs. This is the ultimate truth, and as leaders, we cannot shy away from this reality as they confront us. It is expedient if you are going to be an effective leader.

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Leaders struggle with publicly recognizing their associates or teams. Some practically avoid giving any praise to their employees. Such leaders believe that when you give a little too much credit, the employees will cross the line and take them for granted. That is a grave mistake. Not just in terms of motivating the team but boosting the bottom line and raising employee engagement.

Globally, we are in a corporate war to engage and retain the very best talent. Leaders and organizations seek to attract and retain their best hands while growing the organization and increasing productivity. Their approach has been from offering bonuses and incentives to designing remote and flexible workspaces, as it is every company’s efforts to optimize the workplace are as strong as ever. However, in searching for new innovative ideas and growth, most organizations often overlook the most cost-effective strategy: employee recognition.

According to Gallup’s analysis, it is not uncommon for employees to feel that their best efforts are routinely ignored. Sadly, employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely to say they will quit next year. This engagement and performance component might be one of the most significant missed opportunities for leaders and managers.

Every leader who wants to inspire and connect with employees must start prioritizing recognition. You need to praise your people if you want your team to achieve your desired outcomes, and what gets recognized gets rehashed. When people look to a leader, they seek direction and daily bread and recognition. Leaders often focus on what is considered their primary responsibility, helping their team figure out what to do next. Notwithstanding, encouraging pride and recognizing success for a job well done is similarly significant. Employees crave recognition from leaders. When leaders and employers think of praise and recognition, their brain promptly goes to money-related recognition. While money is helpful, that is far from the only way to recognize employees.

At the point when a leader’s vision, objectives, and corporate targets are vigorously weighted towards accomplishments to the detriment of employee prosperity, it can exact a negative toll on their engagement and productivity. Edward Hallowell says achievements and connection are the two most remarkable experiences in life. However, if we only focus on achieving, we will not connect with our people. He says the connection is a mindset and an energy exchange between people who pay attention. He posed a question, who will impact you more and inspire you toward your best? Is it the brilliant and well-published professor who has no time to relate and connect, or the distinguished, the however less known professor who connects with you as a person? No doubt, it will be the latter. A team’s success lies in the pattern of connection a leader has with his people and how the leader enables them to extend that example to their immediate reports. In an organization that is woefully lacking in employee commitment, leaders who are not actively connecting with people are themselves a liability.

Further, Gallup’s data reveal that the most effective recognition is honest, authentic, and individualized to how each employee wants to be perceived and recognized. The secret is to realize what makes it meaningful and memorable for the employee and who is doing the recognition. The most memorable recognition for any employee is one from a top-level leader or CEO. Most employees will remember personal feedback from a top leader. Even a modest quantity of time the CEO takes to show appreciation can positively impact an employee. The affirmation and recognition from a CEO could become a career highlight and a permanent feature.

When some employees were asked what types of recognition are the most memorable, they outlined six methods specifically, and money is not the only or top form of recognition:

– public recognition through an award, certificate or commendation letter

– private recognition from the most senior leader, immediate boss or clients

– receiving an elevated level of accomplishment through assessments or reviews

– promotion or increase in the scope of work or responsibility to show trust

– monetary grants, e.g., a vacation trip, prize or salary increase

– personal fulfilment or pride in work

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