Recognition and leadership.

It’s just about saying thank you. And the impact is really powerful, but it’s unlikely to find a robust appreciation policy even a strategy anywhere. And this is an too amazing workflow to bond and strengthen the team to despise it: recognition and leadership should be always considered together.

Starting to practice appreciation, little by little

Happyfeed app

In both scenarios, on-site and remote, we need to start warming up. Any recommendation?

There are hundreds of apps, but I recommend HappyFeed. Because it is simple, clean easy to use and free, HappyFeed is my preferred choice. It could be better if we change the color (it reminds me of a hospital ¯_(ツ)_/¯). But it is amazing how simple is to say thank you and how happy this simple action makes us. Nope, I dont tend to be cheesy… just give it a try! It barely takes 2 minutes: it’s about saying thanks to up to 3 people for something that happened last day. Just so. But it works.

Why to invest time and efforts in recognition?

Recognition is always mentioned in employment satisfaction polls as a pending topic, an improvement path. It seems we are not good at saying thank you. And it’s maybe that we don’t really know how to do this. Good new are:

  • People are repeatedly expressing what they wish and what they miss to be more comfortable being part of the team or the organization. So… they are showing you what you need to do to be a good leader.
  • There is nothing done about recognition. And surprisingly this is almost always true. So whatever you do it would be an improvement.

Recognition and leadership has a powerful mutual impact. This is your opportunity!

Let’s start with recognition. Yeah, How?

Cool. We wish to say thank you. But, how? We need to assure people feel recognized when you say thank you. It seems trivial, but it is not. We need to ponder 2 main things to link Recognition and Leadership:

  • What do we understand by recognition or appreciation? There is no consensus on this definition, but there is a clear direction. You should appreciate the way the target would like it, not the way you like it.
  • Recognition is not a hierarchical action. If you mix up appreciation and up-down approach, you will scrap the “saying thank you” metaphor. The whole organization must be part of the recognition dynamics as givers as well as takers of gratefulness and recognition.
CC BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/realheightz/5197846172/
CC BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/realheightz/5197846172/

1. Anyone creates recognition. Horizontality is key.

Recognition is not something you should just expect coming down from your boss or HR department. Every recognition policy I’ve seen implemented didn’t work because they all had the same default. They were hierarchical. Adding hierarchy to the thank you action converts recognition into a kind of charity. The link between recognition and leadership is not about charity, but about fairness.

Gratefulness and Appreciation workflows release all the potential when they are horizontal. Horizontality generates participation, and in this case unveils recognition flows. And leaders and HR can get appreciation too, just as any individual contributor, if they are doing well and helping other people.

CC BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/emilywaltonjones/1111789829/
CC BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/emilywaltonjones/1111789829/

Horizontality in appreciation…

  • Makes teammates feel recognized by others within the team. And this creates strong links between team members and build an amazing workplace, where you feel comfortable working.
  • Converts the leader into someone that could enjoy the same kind of strong links if they decide to re-locate themselves at the same level.
  • Triggers communication within the group, once released of hierarchy tension. Horizontality is capital to animate rich and engaged contributions from team members to the group.

We assume we all take part in recognition workflows, at the same level. Cool. Now, how? Second step.

2 How to appreciate? Let’s ask for hints.

The way I prefer to receive recognition is not necessarily the way other people do. Recognition must be delivered the way the received would like, so their way. It is said there are 4 main categories of recognition :

  • Tangible Gifts. What about a little gift? A thank you postcard, a local craft or your personal handcraft can make a difference. The monetary value is not as important as the appreciation expression. And again… try to understand the personal preferences of the receiver (companies usually have a profile page showing some personal info, and if this is not the case, an Instagram profile could have Mb of information).
  • Quality time. In some cases, the best approach is to give or share quality time. This time could be used for a 1:1 chat, for instance. You can share points of vire about a project that was blocked, giving it a second chance… or maybe just chitchat and have a relaxed conversation, not polluted with work stuff. Any communication is always positive and contributes to team bonding.
  • Words of affirmation. Hear appreciation could also be amazing. From public praise (kudos or any other form) to private thank you, this makes you feel great. And there are some other creative approaches… a social network note, a dedicated Instagram picture, a post…?
  • Acts of Service. You can also help people with a project or a challenge they are working on. Donate or contribute in any way to a cause they are working on. Or even tiny acts of random -or not so random- acts of kindness could make your colleague’s day. 

2. Bonus track. A 5th recognition way.

  • Showing recognition by Giving more responsibility. I mean setting the person responsible for a workflow or a project requiring a higher level of responsibility or creativity. (Never a hard work, but one where they can bright and they have room to develop and implement innovative ideas). This is not valid for anyone. First, it is a recognition generally coming up-down -an exception-. But also not anyone wants to get more responsibility: some could be scared of or some could feel this is like working more without a salary raise and they would not accept it. Heads up: this doesnt always work, but if it does it is simply amazing!

You could find more detailed explanations as well as brilliant ideas about giving and receiving gratitude in this post or this other.

Fair enough. Let’s go for it!

CC BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/magnetbox/
CC BY https://www.flickr.com/photos/magnetbox/

Got it: horizontal and using the receiver’s language. Now what? Where do we start? First things first, we need to know the way in which our team members would like to be recognized. So… let’s ask. I did so on a team blog with a p2 theme. And I started explaining the recognizing ways I listed up above, to have a common context. The final question said, more or less:

How do you like to be appreciated and recognized? Could you answer to this simple question so that anyone knows the way that pleases you the most?

And, to round it off, we put in the blog’s sidebar this information so that anyone is aware.

We set the 2 first stones. We are aware of the recognition process importance and we understand now how to do it. Now we just want to wait to stumble upon a good occasion (or excuse) to say thanks. Don’t be too exigent. The sooner you start saying thank you, the sooner you’ll get traction and the more impactful will be your recognition and leadership efforts.

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