Imagine attending a football game where the entire stadium is silent, except when their team scores. What kind of atmosphere would that be? How do you think that would impact the players? This story has stayed with me ever since I read the excellent book Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard.
The football analogy is perfect for what sometimes is lacking in business. The stadium fans are cheering their side along throughout the game, not just when they score. When it comes to recognition in work, all too often people only hear back when things have gone wrong. This, in turn, can create a fear of failure that completely stifles creativity and innovation.
Here are three things to make sure we can reward and celebrate exceptional and memorable performance in an impactful and meaningful way:
- Make it genuine – receiving praise tends to motivate people and encourage them towards working harder to achieve more but not if it’s not authentic and feels like the leader is just going through the motions of ‘well done everyone’.
- Make it specific – in line with the above, if you get a ‘good work today’ comment, how do you know what you have done right? Today probably involved many things, which ones and in what way were they ‘good’ so you can ‘keep it up’? Tell people exactly what they did well in specific, behavioural terms, otherwise you’ve only yourself to blame!
- Celebrate learning – ok, something has gone wrong, how do we react to this failure? A company and its leaders need to be able to deal with failure in a mature and resourceful way because the reaction that people get to their mistakes can be the most powerful aspect to informing their future behaviour. So firstly, define what your intentions are, not just ‘for them not to make the same mistake again’ which is a given, but what kind of behaviour do you want to encourage? Some reactions will produce compliance, conformity and even ‘brushing under the carpet’ behaviour; while another response might correct the behaviour and create a learning culture without compromising responsible risk-taking and innovative future performance. Choose wisely.
There are many studies that demonstrate how recognition and feeling valued comes top in most people’s list of motivating factors, as well as increases employee retention and overall business performance. So ask yourself: can you afford not to do something about it?
Ana Canabarro is Senior Operations Manager for Mitie Client Services