Effort, Achievement (& Failure), & Improvement
In the dark days of my career in the public sector, I was advised by a long-serving senior manager to not be so complimentary of my team because they would get accustomed to it. At the time I remember thinking, that’s why he was largely disliked and why people didn’t speak to him honestly about, well anything. However, with time and experience, I realised he was actually referring to a psychological concept known as the Kano model. This is essentially based on the belief that over time our expectations shift such that today’s praise becomes tomorrow’s expectation. My solution however is not to stop recognising great people and great performance but to continue finding meaningful ways of recognising effort, achievement (and failure), and above all, improvement.
Here are some of the ways you can offer recognition and help encourage the behaviours you’d love to see in your business.
1 – Say thank you…. in the way the person would want to receive it.
This can range from a phone call, a Teams message, an email, a video message, a voice note, a handwritten letter and or any other mechanism you choose to use. The key is to do so in a way they’d want to receive it and remember to do it. We’re all super busy and whilst of course it takes time and effort, trust me it’s worth it. If you aren’t going to recognise your amazing people someone else will!
2 – Share that thank you!
When it’s appropriate to do so, share that thank you wider than just the person. Perhaps include other close colleagues, a line manager or other senior managers. The intent and consideration here is really important. Think about what you’re trying to achieve, how that person might like to be thanked and if you’re not sure, ask for advice from other colleagues and friends. Celebrate their achievements and successes in a way that elevates them and the team – in the process, you’ll be modelling the behaviours that you’d like everyone else in the team and beyond to adopt.
3 – Send a gift.
I love sending gifts (if my wife’s reading this, I love receiving them too, appreciating I’m incredibly hard to buy for!). I think my absolute favourite gifts to give are books – you’re giving another opportunity for learning and development. Having been fortunate enough to put a lot of books on the read shelves over the past few years I can usually quite quickly think of the right book that would connect with a person I’d especially like to recognise. Again, it’s important to remember it’s not about you, it’s about the person receiving the gift. Sometimes the right gift is food or drink-based, something especially meaningful or locally produced, maybe its flowers or increasingly from us it’s a beautiful, limited edition photograph from our incredible photographer Josh. The key point here is that the gift needs to be meaningful and thoughtful, not generic (don’t bother if it’s generic!) but it absolutely doesn’t need to be expensive, just unique.
4 – Recognise those who made it possible.
One of the things we’ve made an effort to do more lately is recognise the efforts of those who have supported our amazing team in achieving special things. Often, it’s a partner or the family of our team, and as such we have paid for the entire family to go out for dinner, we have sent gifts that are meaningful to all. Most recently we sent vegan chocolates to one of our team after a medical procedure including a note that said half were for the them and the other half were for their partner, for putting up with them being a “nightmare” to look after when bored. This was reinforced days immediately following when they asked for additional audiobook and podcast recommendations because they were, as predicted, already bored.
5 – Investing in the Person (Equipment & Resources)
Where a person has achieved great things, we will always try and push the boundaries of what’s possible with the equipment and resources that mean the most to them. By knowing our team as individuals, we can understand when a specific vehicle, IT equipment, a specific chair, or unusually, PPE might make them feel especially recognised. The same is true of learning and development opportunities, training, conferences, or resources. This highlights a key principle in my thinking around recognition and reward – the same does not mean fair!
We have recently recognised the incredible potential of one of our team by supporting their advanced professional qualifications, helping them move from high-performance in one specific discipline into a new area of the business, and they are thriving already!
It’s important to distinguish that this isn’t a benefit, it is the person receiving something they need to do their job but by pushing the boundary of expense or uniqueness in this regard you can demonstrate that you have recognised their achievement and performance by investing in that person. You will also find that this additional investment has an incredible return rate culturally, emotionally, and in terms of future performance.
These are some of the many ways we try and recognise the efforts of our wonderful team and also our external partners. Reflecting on that same (terrible) advice offered earlier in my career, it was actually an incredible learning opportunity pushing me to continue trying to find new and increasingly meaningful ways to say thank you!
Thanks for the advice!