Master Recognition

Recently, I watched an amazing film called The Wife, adapted from the novel of the same name by Meg Wolitzer. It’s the story of a married couple, Joe and Joan – Joe is a philandering, prize-winning novelist. Joan is the grace, intellect, and talent behind the man. The movie explores many themes including: professional success at the highest levels, relationship complexities, gender stereotypes, the weight of secrecy, reputation and recognition.

The last topic that had me thinking hardest… Recognition. At the root of its definition, recognition is about the acknowledgement and validation of someone’s existence. I believe it is a basic human need to be seen and understood for who we are and what we do. However, each of us needs recognition in different ways and in different amounts.

For some self-assured individuals that easily internally validate, minimal recognition may be needed. Others need greater amounts of external validation to ensure they are on the right track.

Here’s the catch… leaders tend to give recognition in the amount THEY need and the way THEY like to receive it. If that’s true and you’re leading an individual that needs more recognition than you, you’ll constantly be falling short. It’s also possible that if you prefer frequent recognition, it’s likely you dish it out in heaping portions. While some might like this, it can actually be a turn-off for others.

Here are the most common ways I hear people say they like to receive recognition:

  1. Shout-out: Give a public shout-out in a department meeting, highlighting their job well done. I recommend to include what made their work so special e.g. their commitment, skill, delivery etc.
  2. Quality face time: Many of my previous direct reports just wanted to hang for 30-minutes and grab a coffee, go for a walk or get a quick bite of food.
  3. Thank you: A good old-fashioned, hand-written thank you card is priceless.
  4. Spot Bonus: Giving some kind of cash bonus, from a $5 Starbucks gift card to a $5,000 annual company award, employees definitely like to receive cash. Interestingly, I’ve found it is not the most requested form of recognition.

The solve: With every direct report, no matter the level, (yes C-suite, this includes you) ASK your team member their ideal way of receiving recognition. Do this at the onset of your employee/employer partnership. Ensure you flex your recognition style to meet the needs of each employee. Go forth and recognize someone today!