Our Guest Blog Contributor is Liz Hall. She is Executive Director of Training and Development at C&A Industries Omaha, Nebraska, which has six times been the receipient of one of the best places to work in Omaha.
I will be the first one to tell you that I don’t need recognition to do my job. I tend to see it as being cheesy, soft, and simply unnecessary.
I like action.
Show me you care for me by doing what you say you are going to do, showing up to work, and finishing what you start.
Although I am a Gen X’r, I possess many Baby Boomer traits, such as working hard, not asking for much, and making sure I get the job done. “Why, why doesn’t everyone else see things this way?” I frequently found myself wondering at the start of my management career.
One day I asked for some feedback from someone who was leaving our team. Their answer was a harsh reality check. “Liz, you are so unemotional. When I come in every morning, you don’t even look up from your computer. I never know where I stand with you. I only hear about when things go wrong.” I was shocked, and realized that this summed up a large reason for why they were leaving: they needed to work for someone who would give them recognition.
As difficult as it was to hear these words, I am forever grateful for the courage it took this person (who later came back to the company) to give me this much needed feedback. And so, my journey to become a better leader began.
I came to understand that as a manager, you are the sum of who you surround yourself with. People are your greatest resource. But if you surround yourself with great people and don’t show them appreciation, they will likely find another manager who will.
Over time, I have learned 5 Big Ideas that have helped me become better at showing others recognition, which I’m sharing with you to help you become a better coworker and leader.
Idea 1: Know HOW your people want to be recognized, and match your praise to their preferences.
People differ greatly in the types of praise that they perceive as being most meaningful. Not everyone likes for the whole world to know. Some do. A great resource that has helped me easily identify people’s preferences is the book Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, by Gary Chapman and Paul White. It includes a quick assessment to help you discern your preferred language of appreciation.
They fall under five categories: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts, and Human Touch (such as a high five– keep it HR approved!). The worst thing you can do is assume other’s preferences are the same as your own, or give appreciation the same way to everyone. For instance, if you give someone a Starbucks gift card and they 1) are not a coffee drinker and 2) prefer words of affirmation, you have completely negated the praise. Not only do we need to praise and appreciate, we need to do so in the right way.
Idea 2: What gets praised gets repeated.
Rather telling people what to stop doing, what happens when I spend more time telling them what they have done well? I have learned to spend less time and energy on changing what they are doing wrong, and more on what they are doing right.
Idea 3: Timing matters.
A few years back we did a software implementation that involved over sixty people, and I knew it was important to recognize the excellent work they did to make it happen. So, I sat down one Saturday night and after eight straight hours, I completed sixty handwritten “Thank you” cards. But, while my heart was in the right place, it was months after the implementation. I recall running into one of the team members a few weeks later and thanked them again, hoping to emphasize my appreciation for their work. Their response was not what I had hoped for: “Oh. Frankly, I had forgotten about it, but thanks.” This helped me realize that timing really is important when giving recognition.
At C&A Industries, we use recognition software (AMPT) that provides us with the ability to provide instant feedback. Additionally, it serves as our company directory, which helps us put a face with a name. The AMPT system is a fun, quick way to thank someone, while letting the rest of the company see how great they are!
Idea 4: Everyone matters and needs to be shown appreciation for their contribution to the organization.
Whether it is the cleaning company that is responsible for cleaning the floors, the front desk coordinator who takes hundreds of phone calls every day, or your top sales performer, everyone needs to know their value and how they contribute to the bigger picture of your organization’s goals.
Providing sincere appreciation not only lets them know how awesome they are, but helps identify their “Why.” This feeling of purpose is necessary for people to enjoy their work, and makes them more motivated to do it well. Never under estimate the importance of telling another person that they matter.
Idea 5: Generalities mean little. Specifics are everything.
I recently was working with a manager who was trying to change their team’s perception of them. They couldn’t understand why their team didn’t feel appreciated. They thought they were good at recognizing the team members, since they thanked them “all the time” and frequently said “Good job!” I immediately thought, “Good job? For what?” If I am asking myself this question, there is a good chance your team is, too. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t hear this type of very general, “drive by” praise that means absolutely nothing to your team. Take the extra minute to make it specific and meaningful, otherwise your appreciation loses a significant amount of its impact.
Finally, people are our greatest resource and it is imperative that we treat them as such. By implementing these 5 Big Ideas into your daily routine, not only will you have a highly-engaged workforce, but you will also retain your best people.
What other ways have you found to be impactful when providing recognition?