Mid-way through the Awards ceremony the room silenced as a large screen flashed up the question 'What does recognition mean to you?' There followed a series of short, snappy interviews during which the previous award winners gave their response.
Intrigued by their answers, I listened as one after another spoke of the pride they felt at being acknowledged for what they do well. Each talked about being valued for the quality of their work and how the creative output had successfully met a client's brief. It was a celebration of their effort and purpose, not just the process of production. At that moment, it struck me that recognition is an enabler. It motivates, invigorates and drives people on to do more, achieve more and be more.
I recently read 'Oh Great One: A Little Story about the Awesome Power of Recognition' by CEO David Novak (2016). Based on a lifetime of business experience, he said: "If you give people the recognition they've earned, if you show genuine appreciation and acknowledge the unique things people have to offer, then you will drive real results". So why don't we do it more often in the workplace?
Sometimes we forget. In the hurly-burly of to-do lists, project milestones and the need to get 'stuff' done, we don't think about the impact of what we don't say. Maybe we neglect to notice the effort and instead focus purely on outcomes. To some managers, a less than excellent result means no acknowledgement and no reward. What a pity as the latest research into how the brain works tell us that recognition of effort, especially during a struggle will help develop grit and stimulates creative problem-solving. Simply put, why wouldn't you find time to applaud positive attitude and application of effort?
"But that's what they get paid for," said the senior executive who had yet to acknowledge his team's effort on a challenging project. His view was that people would think he had gone 'soft' if he said, 'well done' and 'thank you'. He would stand them a round of drinks at the end of the project, and there was the promise of a bonus payment - if things went well. Never mind that the team was exhausted and demoralised. It would 'toughen them up'.
The fact is that subjecting people to relentless pressure is not an effective way to build resilience. It is a fast-track to burn-out, and the harsh sound of the revolving door as talent walks away.
What a missed opportunity. The sweetest words that people can hear when they have worked hard and have made sacrifices are their name and 'thank you'. Of course, financial reward is a significant factor. We want to feel fairly compensated for our skills and time. By itself, this is not enough to fully satisfy nor will it build the deep engagement that leads to innovative solutions, stronger teams and better client outcomes.
Relying on financial reward alone is a rather miserable equation: 'my effort + your money = just a transaction for both of us'. The magic happens when there is a much more refreshing equation: 'my effort + your recognition + your money = a collaborative relationship'. The result is an application of discretionary effort. There is a willingness to go just that bit further. To try that bit harder and keep on going despite setbacks.
True engagement at work is driven by far more than financial reward. Recognising people impacts upon commitment which in turn drives productivity. So, what will you do today to make someone feel like an award-winner?