Friday, September 22, 2006

Recognition to encourage performance

The Philosophy Bunch
Originally uploaded by carpe icthus.
One of the things I find in my consulting work is that organizations are weak when it comes to recognizing performance. And, it's the informal recognition programs where we fall down the most.

I was fascinated when this came across my inbox. I usually just dump these, but this one I opened. And I'm glad I did.

This is from Bob Nelson's Tip of the Week; this week: "Insights from a Recognition Champion." And there's plenty of food for thought for all us here:
Sandy Hackenwerth, Recognition Champion

Maritz Rewards, the world’s largest recognition and incentive company headquartered in Fenton, MO, recently asked their employees who they felt in their organization was especially good at recognizing others. Twenty-seven people from different areas and levels of the organization all cited one account manager, Sandy Hackenwerth, as their role model for the topic. I recently had the pleasure to interview Sandy to see how a true recognition champion makes recognition happen day in and day out.

Bob: You seem to have a real knack for recognition – where did that come from?

Sandy : I have always been intrigued about research on the healing power of laughter and of a positive attitude. We know these elements can help people to be more productive and since I believe everyone wants to do a good job, I felt focusing on the positive would make it easier for them to succeed.

Bob: What does that look like in practice?

Sandy : I always try to walk around with a smile, for starters, and I make a daily effort to acknowledge people. For example, have you ever gone to a meeting and had to wait for people to show up to start the meeting? I find most people will waste that time, but I never do. I carry note cards (such as Maritz’s Cause for Applause notes) and use those few minutes to jot some thank yous. Or I review things like your Guidelines for Effective Praising wallet card and try to focus that information on the upcoming meeting and how I want to come across to others.

Bob: You’re just saying that because you’re talking to me, right?

Sandy : No. I really do that. I also like quotes and I save ones I like and frequently review them to inspire me and help shape my outlook and behavior in the current situation I’m in. Things like Steven Covey’s “First seek to understand before you seek to be understood.” Or “Weakness is a strength that’s overused.”

Bob: Who said that?

Sandy : I guess I just did. All these little things put me in a frame of reference that makes recognition just a small step to do.

Bob: So you’re constantly in a state of readiness on the activity of recognition?

Sandy : Yes. I honestly believe that people don’t use the words “please” and “thank you” enough so I look to use them all the time, even if it’s to thank someone for negative feedback, which when you think about it, is really a gift from the other person.

Bob: Why do you think most managers don’t embrace recognition?

Sandy : One of my pet peeves is when another manager says they don’t have time to recognize others. That’s a cop out and it lets them off the hook to not have to make recognition a priority. For example, just this morning our company announced some quarterly award winners in one of our recognition programs. I wrote up a short congratulations email, which I then individually sent to the 27 award recipients. It took me all of 10 minutes, tops, to do this. And you know what? I’ve gotten back a reply back from almost every person I sent that to! Please don’t think recognition is not important and please don’t say you don’t have time to do it. If it’s a priority for you, you’ll make the time to make it happen.

Bob: What else do you do?

Sandy : Little things, really—but they all add up. For example, we have three recognition tools that Maritz makes available to all managers to use: 1) Jeans Day stickers—a sticker that entitles the person to wear jeans on the next scheduled “jeans day,” 2) free lunch passes, and 3) a points-based program that people can redeem for merchandise. I’ve asked all my employees, which of those three is most meaningful to them.

Bob: So you take the guesswork out of the process?

Sandy : Exactly. And I know, for example, that two of my employees hate public recognition, so when it’s warranted, I’ll personally praise those individuals and not subject them to a form of recognition they don’t want. It’s really so simple: If you treat people the way you want to be treated, it all works out well.

Bob: Well, thank you, Sandy for being a model that inspires others on this topic!

Sandy : The same to you!
To give credit where credit is due:
Bob Nelson, Ph.D., is president of Nelson Motivation Inc.; a frequent presenter to management groups, conferences and associations; and a best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (now in a revised, updated and expanded edition), 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook and The Management Bible. Register for Bob's free Tip of the Week at
How will you recognize high performance? How will you make that recognition appropriate and meaningful to the recipiant?

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