The Secret to Engagement? Great Recognition

Now think for just a few minutes, when was the last time you sincerely thanked your employees, your colleagues, or your manager? 

Having an attitude of gratitude is not only important in your personal life, it’s also profoundly important in your work life. Recognizing others in the workplace leads to enhanced relationships, improves corporate culture, strengthens teams and motivates people and teams to shine brighter for themselves and for the organization.

Research studies from UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, a leading author and researcher on the subject of gratitude and the O.C. Tanner Institute,  have proven that appreciation and recognition are not only a way to make our colleagues feel warm and fuzzy, it also drives business results.

In leadership courses that I teach, I always emphasize the power of classical conditioning – that is, what gets recognized gets repeated. People who are recognized for the work that they do are not only more satisfied with their workplace, they are also likely to be more engaged. In fact, Gallup has demonstrated that people who receive recognition or praise every seven days tend to be more engaged than people who do not.

So what are some practical ways that you can become better at recognizing others? Take an inventory to see if you are doing these four things today. 


1. Make it a priority. When I ask managers what the number one barrier to giving their employees frequent and meaningful recognition is, they usually say that they just don’t have the time. However, great recognition doesn’t take a lot of time – it just takes thought and prioritization. Make it a part of your engagement strategy as a leader and a part of your practice.

2. Make it personal. Recognition isn’t one size fits all. While some people like the loud and sparkly types of recognition such as public awards or very public shout outs, others prefer quieter recognition such as a hand written thank you note or a private conversation. Some people enjoy Starbucks, other’s might not like coffee. Consider the person that you’re recognizing and make it personal for them. Don’t how how they like to be recognized? You can always ask!

3. Make it specific. Being specific about what it is that you are recognizing the other person for helps the them to link their behaviors or achievements to the recognition moment. While generic thank yous are nice, specific and timely recognition ensures that what gets recognized, gets repeated.


So what do you recognize people for? If the recommendation is to recognize people more often, does that mean that they should be recognized for simple things like coming into work? People often tell me that people should only be recognized for significant accomplishments. And to that I’d like to ask a question:

Consider that you are a true fan of a sports team, and you are watching that sports team perform live. When do you start cheering?

If you’re a true fan, you would start cheering even before the first pitch, the first touchdown, the first goal. You would be cheering right from the start. And if you are a true fan of your people, you would want not only to celebrate their achievements, but all of their efforts along the way.


Books & Resources on Gratitude

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Make Generosity a Part of Your Growth Strategy

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management said it best, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

When thinking about the types of skills one would need to succeed in a business environment, generosity isn’t usually something that comes up. Leadership, yes. Vision, absolutely. Ability to execute, you bet. But I’d like to argue that just as important as all of those skills is the skill of generosity. It has the power to make or break your career.

It was time to make an adjustment to the way I thought about success and growth. It was time to make generosity a part of my growth strategy.

Now, what does it mean to be generous at work?

Generous people at work share information, credit, time and expertise freely. In short, generous people think of themselves as a part of a larger strategy, a piece of a puzzle, and seek ways in which to improve the entire team instead of just themselves. Because of their nature, generous people are prized as great communicators and collaborators.

Here are a few quick ideas that can jump start your generosity today:


1. Share information. Sharing information that you have with others on your team makes you look open, authentic and trustworthy. Making sure that people have the information to make the right decisions is not only important to achieve great business results, but it also helps people to feel like they have buy-in in the process. When people aren’t left wondering what’s happening, they have more opportunities to collaborate and get things done quicker and better.

2. Share credit. Time and time again, we have learned from leadership studies that people want to be recognized for a job well done. Remember, recognition doesn’t cost you anything. If you see your colleagues doing great work, recognize them for it! Sell up your colleagues to upper management and let them know that everything that you do is a team effort and therefore the entire team deserves credit for a job well done.

3. Share time. Taking extra time out of your day to chat at the water cooler isn’t a wasted effort at all. In fact, bonding with your colleagues makes it easier to get things done together in the future. When in meetings or in conference calls, take a few moments to ask your colleagues about their weekend, or how they are doing. Then listen generously to their responses, showing that you really care.

4. Share expertise. You’re brilliant, and everyone knows it. Don’t let all of that accumulated experience and intelligence go to waste! Take the time and effort to share your experiences, whether highs or lows and your learning with others. Better yet, consider taking on a mentoring role to help others achieve the success that you have accomplished, whether inside or outside of your organization.


Remember, there’s no “I” in “team”. Nowadays, I make generosity a big part of my work life, and in fact, a part of my growth strategy. None of us work in a vacuum. No one is able to do it entirely on their own. To make big things happen, you need a big team of people, rowing together in the same direction.

Generosity doesn’t come up often in leadership content. Yet I truly believe that this is one of the most important principles of thriving. In listening to some of the most inspiring leaders, what I have been hearing is that you can’t do it all. You have to relinquish your power, to empower others.

Start with Strengths

Strengths psychology is based on the premise that instead of focusing on what is wrong with people, we should focus on what is right with people. Imagine if you were able to do only the things that you do best at work. How productive would you be? Each of us has a unique set of talents that we are born with. Think about what your talents might be. What do people consistently recognize you for? What comes naturally to you? Now answer the following questions below. If you respond “yes” to these questions, they might give you some insight as to whether you have talents in those areas.


  1. Do you have a color-coded, or otherwise very organized closet?
  2. Do you find it easy to talk to anyone anywhere, whether it is in elevators, supermarkets or while waiting in line?
  3. Do you find it easy to relate to others, their pains and joys?
  4. Do you enjoy puzzles and board games?
  5. Are you considered the “fixer” in your family? Are you always solving problems?
  6. Do you feel like it’s difficult to let go of work, even on vacation?
  7. Do your strong beliefs guide what you do everyday?
  8. Is it easy  for you to stay on a diet or regimen?
  9. Are you competitive by nature, even when there is no competition?

If you answered “yes” to several of these questions, they might clue you into whether you might have talents or strengths in that particular area. Notice that while some were an absolute “yes”, others might be a resounding “no”. For me, I know I lack discipline and self-control, and staying on a regimen to me sounds almost torturous. So a job where repetition is important may not be the best job for me.

Knowing what your strengths are is not only important because it is a frequent job interview question, but also because it had tremendous implications in unlocking your potential at work, and in your personal life. By knowing what makes you tick and understanding how strengths play into your day-to-day, you’ll be able to strategically utilize your strengths while managing around your weaknesses. What do I mean about managing around your weaknesses? Perhaps it is finding a partner at work who had different strengths from you, or perhaps it is minimizing the types of tasks that don’t play on your strengths and talents. That way, you can maximize your success by engaging in projects that increase your opportunities for success.

Research in strengths have consistently demonstrated that people who have the opportunity to do what they do best everyday are not only more successful, they are more engaged. In fact,

People who respond positively to the question, “I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday.” are 6 times more likely to be engaged and 3 times more likely to report an excellent quality of life in general.

— Gallup

People who are working in their strengths zone look forward to going to work, have more positive than negative interactions with their colleagues, treat customers better, tell their friends that they work at a great company, achieve more on a daily basis and have more positive, creative and innovative moments.

Now take some time, to think about your strengths. What are you known for at work? You might be the go-to person for this. Are you particularly strong in coming up with fresh, new ideas? Are you able to make the world’s greatest, most organized Excel spreadsheets with built in formulas and pivot tables? Maybe you’re the go-to girl for winning over new customers. Take a moment to think about where you truly sparkle at work. Write down three things that you’re known for, which we’ll call, your strengths.

Now that you have three strengths written down, think about how much time you spend utilizing these strengths at work. How much of your week is spent doing the things that you’re naturally good at? How much time is spent doing things that you might struggle with, or not enjoy? These might be great opportunities to take a look at how you are spending your time, and readjust.

What Does it Mean to Positively Sparkle?

Imagine waking up, feeling invigorated, energized and ready for your day. There is a peaceful calmness to your surroundings. The sun is shining and the weather feels pleasant on your skin. Your clothes, professional yet flirty hug your curves just right, and you’ve got just the right swing in your step.

No matter where you are headed, your commute is pleasant. You are able to simultaneously relax and engage with your surroundings. For me, I take the NYC Subway every morning. You might drive or walk to work, or take other forms of public transportation. You might listen to a podcast that teaches you something or inspires you. You might listen to music that is upbeat and fuels your soul. Birds are chirping and trees are green. The blue sky above reminds us that we are fully alive.

As your commute comes to an end, you are excited to embark on your day. The air is fresh and the greetings are warm. The hospitable aroma of coffee lingers in the air. You drop your bag down and sit at your computer. You’re ready for another amazing day.

While not all days can be this perfect, you absolutely can positively sparkle at work and at home. By bringing the best version of yourself to your every day, by believing in the mission and purpose or your organization, by having an optimal team that has your back, by having a boss that is more of a coach and cares about your personal development, and by making sure that you are focused on all dimensions of your well-being – physical, social, financial, relational and purposeful, you will certainly shine.

What does this all mean? The purpose of this blog will explore positive psychology and leadership topics that will inspire you to positively sparkle at work. Stay tuned for more posts on practice tips, advice and life-hacks that will ensure you are consistently living your best self.