How many times have you heard someone say something to the effect of, “I’d like to thank everyone. I’m not going to name any names for fear that I’ll overlook someone”? It’s my guess that you’ve heard this many times, I certainly know I’ve heard too many times to count. Now granted, those type statements are generally made when making public announcements to a large crowd. However, upon a real evaluation of the subject, I’m willing to bet you will discover this type attitude sneaks its way into your private life. Let me make a personal observation to make my point. You are likely familiar with the birthday reminder feature within Facebook. You’ve seen it many times, all of your friends will wish another friend a happy birthday on Facebook. Well, I purposefully avoid birthday wishes on Facebook. I’m sure you can guess why I avoid birthday wishes, I’m afraid I’ll forget to check the birthday reminder and overlook someone or, heaven forbid, I don’t even view Facebook for an entire day and miss someone’s birthday. As an individual it could be argued this is acceptable. I’m feeling a little guilty now that I’ve “said it out loud”, so it may be a difficult argument to make. However, as a leader, this is completely unacceptable and frankly a cop-out.
Now, I’m not specifically referring to wishing everyone a happy birthday, but I am referring to the need of every leader to recognize extraordinary efforts among their team. Just like the fear of overlooking someone in a public address, too many leaders avoid individual recognitions for fear of overlooking someone. Let’s face it, if a leader is constantly overlooking extraordinary efforts among team members then he is obviously far too disconnected from the team.
The lack of recognition has dramatic impacts on the morale of a team. So while overlooking an individual in a particular situation may negatively impact that individual, the total lack of recognition will negatively impact the entire team. Additionally, overlooking an individual in a particular situation can quickly and easily be rectified with a sincere apology and proper recognition. Repairing an enduring lack of recognition requires a great amount of effort and untold amounts of time.
Let’s identify some negative impacts the lack of recognition will have on your team.
1) Loss of Respect
When a leader constantly neglects recognition, the team members begin to assume the leader is not truly engaged in the work of the team. This will lead to the impression that the leader doesn’t truly care about the team or the work of the team. Team members tend to care very deeply for the team and the work of the team, therefore the leader that doesn’t equally care will lose the respect of the team. Attempting to lead a team without their respect is a sufficient topic to take up in another blog article
2) Mediocre Team Members
When recognition is lacking the team members feel little incentive to excel. An atmosphere void of recognition creates the “why bother” mentality within the team. Team members will certainly recognize to need for extra effort and will even have an innate desire to excel, however the feeling of “no one cares” will likely snuff out even the best of intentions.
3) Reduced Leadership Growth
Every organization needs to grow leaders from within the team. Always reaching out into the job market for great leadership talent is an unsustainable approach over a long period of time. New leadership must be grow from within the team. The lack of recognition not only reduces respect for leadership, it also reduces the desire to be a leader.
Conversely, recognizing team members for their extraordinary efforts has immeasurable impacts on the team. It is human nature to desire recognition and know that you add value. Today’s business world requires extraordinary effort on a frequent basis. The leader that constantly recognized extraordinary efforts will always rest assured the team has members prepared to put forth that needed effort. An individual previously recognized will be eager to go the extra mile yet again because there is that awareness that the effort will be noticed, appreciated, and acknowledged.
Let’s now identify some practical ways to ensure you recognize your team appropriately.
1) Schedule Recognition
For years now I’ve place a thirty minute block of time on my corporate calendar (usually on Friday afternoons) to recognize someone. This not only blocks that time in order that it can’t be occupied by another activity, it actually keeps recognition on my radar. If you place recognition on your calendar, avoid with every ounce of discipline you can muster the urge to skip recognition and do some “more pressing” task when the calendar reminder pops up.
Hold on now, you know good and well I’m not recommending that you actually kiss a person as a means of recognizing them. You know the acronym K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid. It doesn’t have to be elaborate recognition. You don’t need to go out an buy expensive stationary and pens or swing by the florist for flowers. Team members are much less interested in how you recognize them than just the fact you acknowledge their efforts. By keeping it very simple, you increase the likelihood that you will maintain the discipline. In the vast majority of situations, I simply sent the team member a short (but sincere) email.
3) Listen Well
Before you can recognize the efforts of your team members, you must first be aware of the efforts. Often times, a leader will struggle to identify the efforts that need to be recognized. This could be due to any number of circumstances. I have to travel from time to time, so I’m not always in close proximity of the team and can’t easily identify extraordinary efforts on my own. In this case, you have to listen very well. Listen to the comments of your team members, especially those comments regarding other team members. Pay close attention to details in emails. In conversations and emails you will be able to identify one team member recognizing the efforts of another team member.
4) Keep the Bar High
I’ve run out of synonyms for extraordinary effort within this blog article. I know I’ve used the phrase a lot, but it is very important that you recognize only extraordinary efforts. If you attempt the discipline of recognizing every little activity within the team, you will quickly grow weary of the task of recognition. Additionally, you will begin to train the team to have lower than desired performance expectations.
I hope this helps you understand the need to recognize your team members and motivates you to begin the discipline today. I’d love to hear some practical ways that you plan to ensure you recognize your team members. Please share them with the rest of us in the comments below.
Now, I need to get over to Facebook to see who has a birthday today.